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THE DECLINE 
OF THE WEST 



THE DECLINE 
OF THE WEST 

FORM AND ACTUALITY 



BY 



OSWALD SPENGLER 



AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION 
WITH NOTES BY 

CHARLES FRANCIS ATKINSON 




MCMXXVII: ALFRED • A • KNOPF: NEW YORK 



COPYRIGHT 19x6, BY ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC. 



PUBLISHED, APRIL, 19x6 

SECOND PRINTING, APRIL, 19x6 

THIRD PRINTING, JULY, 1916 

FOURTH PRINTING, NOVEMBER, 1916 

FIFTH PRINTING, DECEMBER, 19x6 

SIXTH PRINTING, MAY, I92.7 



MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OP AMERICA 



THIS TRANSLATION IS 
DEDICATED TO 

ELLINOR JAMES 

A FRIEND 



Wenn im Unendlichen dasselbe 
Sich wiederholend ewig fliesst, 
Das tausendfdltige Gewolbe 
Sich krdftig ineinander schliesstj 
Stromt Lebenslust aus alien Dingen, 
Dem kleinsten wie dem grossten Stern, 
Und alles Drdngen, alles Ringen 
1st ewige Ruh in Gott dem Herrn. 

— Goethe. 



- 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

It must be left to critics to say whether it was Destiny or Incident — using 
these words in the author's sense — that Spengler's "Untergang des Abend- 
landes" appeared in July, 1918, that is, at the very turning-point of the four 
years' World-War. It was conceived, the author tells us, before 1914 and fully 
worked out by 1917. So far as he is concerned, then, the impulse to create it 
arose from a view of our civilization not as the late war left it, but (as he says 
expressly) as the coming war would find it. But inevitably the public impulse 
to read it arose in and from post-war conditions, and thus it happened that this 
severe and difficult philosophy of history found a market that has justified the 
printing of 90,000 copies. Its very title was so apposite to the moment as to 
predispose the higher intellectuals to regard it as a work of the moment — the 
more so as the author was a simple Oberlehrer and unknown to the world of 
authoritative learning. 

Spengler's was not the only, nor indeed the most " popular," philosophical 
product of the German revolution. In the graver conjunctures, sound minds do 
not dally with the graver questions — they either face and attack them with 
supernormal resolution or thrust them out of sight with an equally supernormal 
effort to enjoy or to endure the day as it comes. Even after the return to normal- 
ity, it is no longer possible for men — at any rate for Western men — not to 
know that these questions exist. And, if it is none too easy even for the victors 
of the struggle to shake off its sequelae, to turn back to business as the normal 
and to give no more than amateur effort and dilettantish attention to the very 
deep things, for the defeated side this is impossible. It goes through a period of 
material difficulty (often extreme difficulty) and one in which pride of achieve- 
ment and humility in the presence of unsuccess work dynamically together. So 
it was with sound minds in the post-Jena Germany of Jahn and Fichte, and so it 
was also with such minds in the Germany of 1919-1910. 

To assume the r&le of critic and to compare Spengler's with other philoso- 
phies of the present phase of Germany, as to respective intrinsic weights, is not 
the purpose of this note nor within the competence of its writer. On the other 
hand, it is unconditionally necessary for the reader to realize that the book before 
him has not only acquired this large following amongst thoughtful laymen, but 
has forced the attention and taxed the scholarship of every branch of the learned 
world. Theologians, historians, scientists, art critics — all saw the challenge, 



x TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

and each brought his apparatus criticus to bear on that part of the Spengler 
theory that affected his own domain. The reader who is familiar with German 
may be referred to Manfred Schroeter's "Der Streit um Spengler" for details; 
it will suffice here to say that Schroeter's index of critics' names contains some 
400 entries. These critics are not only, or even principally, general reviewers, 
most of them being specialists of high standing. It is, to say the least, remark- 
able that a volcanically assertive philosophy of history, visibly popular and 
produced under a catchy title (Reklamtitel) should call forth, as it did, a special 
number of Logos in which the Olympians of scholarship passed judgment on 
every inaccuracy or unsupported statement that they could detect. (These were 
in fact numerous in the first edition and the author has corrected or modified 
them in detail in the new edition, from which this translation has been done. 
But it should be emphasized that the author has not, in this second edition, 
receded in any essentials from the standpoint taken up in the first.) 

The conspicuous features in this first burst of criticism were, on the one hand, 
want of adequate critical equipment in the general critic, and, on the other, in- 
ability to see the wood for the trees in the man of learning. No one, reading 
Schroeter's book (which by the way is one-third as large as Spengler's first 
volume itself)? can fail to agree with his judgment that notwithstanding 
paradoxes, overstrainings, and inaccuracies, the work towers above all its com- 
mentators. And it was doubtless a sense of this greatness that led many scholars 
— amongst them some of the very high — to avoid expressing opinions on it 
at all. It would be foolish to call their silence a "sitting on the fence"; it is a 
case rather of reserving judgment on a philosophy and a methodology that 
challenge all the canons and carry with them immense implications. For the 
very few who combine all the necessary depth of learning with all the necessary 
freedom and breadth of outlook, it will not be the accuracy or inaccuracy of 
details under a close magnifying-glass that will be decisive. The very idea of 
accuracy and inaccuracy presupposes the selection or acceptance of co-ordinates 
of reference, and therefore the selection or acceptance of a standpoint as "ori- 
gin." That is mere elementary science — and yet the scholar-critic would be 
the first to claim the merit of scientific rigour for his criticisms ! It is, in history 
as in science, impossible to draw a curve through a mass of plotted observations 
when they are looked at closely and almost individually. 

Criticism of quite another and a higher order may be seen in Dr. Eduard 
Meyer's article on Spengler in the Deutsche Literatur%eitung> No. 15 of 1924. Here 
we find, in one of the great figures of modern scholarship, exactly that large- 
minded judgment that, while noting minor errors — and visibly attaching 
little importance to them — deals with the Spengler thesis fairly and squarely 
on the grand issues alone. Dr. Meyer differs from Spengler on many serious 
questions, of which perhaps the most important is that of the scope and origin 
of the Magian Culture. But instead of cataloguing the errors that are still to be 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xi 

found in Spengler's vast ordered multitude of facts, Eduard Meyer honourably 
bears testimony to our author's "erstaunlich umfangreiches, ihm stdndig 
prdsentes, Wissen" (a phrase as neat and as untranslatable as Goethe's "exakte 
sinnliche Phantasie ' '). He insists upon the fruitfulness of certain of Spengler's 
ideas such as that of the "Second Religiousness." Above all, he adheres to and 
covers with his high authority the basic idea of the parallelism of organically- 
living Cultures. It is not necessarily Spengler's structure of the Cultures that he 
accepts — parts of it indeed he definitely rejects as wrong or insufficiently es- 
tablished by evidences — but on the question of their being an organic structure 
of the Cultures, a morphology of History, he ranges himself frankly by the side 
of the younger thinker, whose work he sums up as a "bleibendez und auf lange 
Zeit hinaus nachhaltig wirkendez Besitz unserer Wissenschaft und Literatur." 
This last phrase of Dr. Meyer's expresses very directly and simply that which 
for an all-round student (as distinct from an erudite specialist) constitutes the 
peculiar quality of Spengler's work. Its influence is far deeper and subtler than 
any to which the conventional adjective "suggestive" could be applied. It 
cannot in fact be described by adjectives at all, but only denoted or adumbrated 
by its result, which is that, after studying and mastering it, ' ' one finds it nearly 
if not quite impossible to approach any culture-problem — old or new, dog- 
matic or artistic, political or scientific — without conceiving it primarily as 
* morphological.' " 

The work comprises two volumes — under the respective sub-titles "Form 
and Reality" and "World-historical Perspectives" — of which the present 
translation covers the first only. Some day I hope to have the opportunity of 
completing a task which becomes — such is the nature of this book — more 
attractive in proportion to its difficulty. References to Volume II are, for the 
present, necessarily to the pages of the German original; if, as is hoped, this 
translation is completed later by the issue of the second volume, a list of the 
necessary adjustments of page references will be issued with it. The reader will 
notice that translator's foot-notes are scattered fairly freely over the pages of 
this edition. In most cases these have no pretensions to being critical annota- 
tions. They are merely meant to help the reader to follow up in more detail the 
points of fact which Spengler, with his "standig prasentes Wissen," sweeps 
along in his course. This being their object, they take the form, in the majority 
of cases, of references to appropriate articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
which is the only single work that both contains reasonably full information 
on the varied (and often abstruse) matters alluded to, and is likely to be acces- 
sible wherever this book may penetrate. Every reader no doubt will find these 
notes, where they appertain to his own special subject, trivial and even annoy- 
ing, but it is thought that, for example, an explanation of the mathematical 
Limit may be helpful to a student who knows all about the Katharsis in Greek 
drama, and vice versa. 



xii TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

In conclusion I cannot omit to put on record the part that my wife, Hannah 
Waller Atkinson, has taken in the work of translation and editing. I may best 
describe it by saying that it ought perhaps to have been recorded on the title 
page instead of in this place. 

C. F. A. 
January, 1926. 



PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION 

At the close of an undertaking which, from the first brief sketch to the final 
shaping of a complete work of quite unforeseen dimensions, has spread itself 
over ten years, it will not be out of place to glance back at what I intended and 
what I have achieved, my standpoint then and my standpoint to-day. 

In the Introduction to the 1918 edition — inwardly and outwardly a frag- 
ment — I stated my conviction that an idea had now been irrefutably formu- 
lated which no one would oppose, once the idea had been put into words. I 
ought to have said: once that idea had been understood. And for that we must 
look — as I more and more realize — not only in this instance but in the whole 
history of thought — to the new generation that is born with the ability to 
do it. 

I added that this must be considered as a first attempt, loaded with all the 
customary faults, incomplete and not without inward opposition. The remark 
was not taken anything like as seriously as it was intended. Those who have 
looked searchingly into the hypotheses of living thought will know that it is 
not given to us to gain insight into the fundamental principles of existence 
without conflicting emotions. A thinker is a person whose part it is to sym- 
bolize time according to his vision and understanding. He has no choice; he 
thinks as he has to think. Truth in the long run is to him the picture of the 
world which was born at his birth. It is that which he does not invent but 
rather discovers within himself. It is himself over again: his being expressed 
in words; the meaning of his personality formed into a doctrine which so far 
as concerns his life is unalterable, because truth and his life are identical. This 
symbolism is the one essential, the vessel and the expression of human history. 
The learned philosophical works that arise out of it are superfluous and only 
serve to swell the bulk of a professional literature. 

I can then call the essence of what I have discovered "true" — that is, true 
for me, and as I believe, true for the leading minds of the coming time; not true 
in itself as dissociated from the conditions imposed by blood and by history, for 
that is impossible. But what I wrote in the storm and stress of those years was, 
it must be admitted, a very imperfect statement of what stood clearly before 
me, and it remained to devote the years that followed to the task of correlating 
facts and finding means of expression which should enable me to present my 
idea in the most forcible form. 

To perfect that form would be impossible — life itself is only fulfilled in 
death. But I have once more made the attempt to bring up even the earliest 



xiv PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION 

portions of the work to the level of definiteness with which I now feel able to 
speak; and with that I take leave of this book with its hopes and disappoint- 
ments, its merits and its faults. 

The result has in the meantime justified itself as far as I myself am concerned 
and — judging by the effect that it is slowly beginning to exercise upon ex- 
tensive fields of learning — as far as others are concerned also. Let no one ex- 
pect to find everything set forth here. It is but one side of what I see before me, 
a new outlook on history and the philosophy of destiny — the first indeed of its 
kind. It is intuitive and depictive through and through, written in a language 
which seeks to present objects and relations illustratively instead of offering 
an army of ranked concepts. It addresses itself solely to readers who are capable 
of living themselves into the word-sounds and pictures as they read. Difficult 
this undoubtedly is, particularly as our awe in face of mystery — the respect 
that Goethe felt — denies us the satisfaction of thinking that dissections are 
the same as penetrations. 

Of course, the cry of "pessimism" was raised at once by those who live 
eternally in yesterday (Ewiggestrigeri) and greet every idea that is intended for 
the pathfinder of to-morrow only. But I have not written for people who 
imagine that delving for the springs of action is the same as action itself; those 
who make definitions do not know destiny. 

By understanding the world I mean being equal to the world. It is the hard 
reality of living that is the essential, not the concept of life, that the ostrich- 
philosophy of idealism propounds. Those who refuse to be bluffed by enuncia- 
tions will not regard this as pessimism; and the rest do not matter. For the 
benefit of serious readers who are seeking a glimpse at life and not a definition, 
I have — in view of the far too great concentration of the text — mentioned 
in my notes a number of works which will carry that glance into more distant 
realms of knowledge. 

And now, finally, I feel urged to name once more those to whom I owe 
practically everything: Goethe and Nietzsche. Goethe gave me method, 
Nietzsche the questioning faculty — and if I were asked to find a formula for 
my relation to the latter I should say that I had made of his " outlook* * (Aus- 
blicK) an " overlook* ' QUberblicK). But Goethe was, without knowing it, a 
disciple of Leibniz in his whole mode of thought. And, therefore, that which 
has at last (and to my own astonishment) taken shape in my hands I am able 
to regard and, despite the misery and disgust of these years, proud to call a 
German philosophy. 

Oswald Spengler. 
Blankenburg am Harz, 
December, 1922, 



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION 

The complete manuscript of this book — the outcome of three years' work 

— was ready when the Great War broke out. By the spring of 1917 it had 
been worked over again and — in certain details — supplemented and cleared 
up, but its appearance in print was still delayed by the conditions then pre- 
vailing. 

Although a philosophy of history is its scope and subject, it possesses also a 
certain deeper significance as a commentary on the great epochal moment of 
which the portents were visible when the leading ideas were being formed. 

The title, which had been decided upon in 1911, expresses quite literally the 
intention of the book, which was to describe, in the light of the decline of the 
Classical age, one world-historical phase of several centuries upon which we 
ourselves are now entering. 

Events have justified much and refuted nothing. It became clear that these 
ideas must necessarily be brought forward at just this moment and in Germany, 
and, more, that the war itself was an element in the premisses from which the 
new world-picture could be made precise. 

For I am convinced that it is not merely a question of writing one out of 
several possible and merely logically justifiable philosophies, but of writing the 
philosophy of our time, one that is to some extent a natural philosophy and is 
dimly presaged by all. This may be said without presumption; for an idea that 
is historically essential — that does not occur within an epoch but itself makes 
that epoch — is only in a limited sense the property of him to whose lot it 
falls to parent it. It belongs to our time as a whole and influences all thinkers, 
without their knowing it; it is but the accidental, private attitude towards it 
(without which no philosophy can exist) that — with its faults and its merits 

— is the destiny and the happiness of the individual. 

Oswald Spengler. 
Munich^ 
December, 1917. 



CONTENTS 

Translator's Note ix 

Author's Preface to the Revised Edition xiii 

Author's Preface to the First Edition xv 

Chapter I. Introduction i 

Scope of the work; p. 3 . Morphology of World-History, a new philosophy, p. 5 . For whom 
is History? p. 8. Classical and Indian mankind ahistorical, p. 9. The Egyptian mummy and 
the burning of the dead, p. 13. The conventional scheme of World-History (ancient, mediaeval, 
modern), p. 15. Its origin, p. 18. Its breakdown, p. 12.. Europe not a centre of gravity, p. 2.3. 
The only historical method is Goethe's, p. 2.5. Ourselves and the Romans, p. 2.6. Nietzsche 
and Mommsen, p. 2.8. The problem of Civilization, p. 31. Imperialism the last phase, p. 36. 
The necessity and range of our basic idea, p. 39. Its relation to present-day philosophy, p. 41. 
Philosophy's last task, p. 45. The origin of this work, p. 46. 

Chapter II. The Meaning of Numbers 51 

Fundamental notions, p. 53. Numbers as the sign of delimitation, p. 56. Every Culture has 
its own Mathematic, p. 59. Number as magnitude in the Classical world, p. 64. Aristarchus, 
p. 68. Diophantus and Arabian number, p. 71. Number as Function in the Western Culture, 
p. 74. World-fear and world-longing, p. 78. Geometry and arithemetic, p. 81. The Limit 
idea, p. 86. Visual limits transcended; symbolical space worlds, p. 86. Final possibilities, p. 87. 

Chapter III. The Problem of World-history, (i) Physiognomic and 

Systematic 91 

Copernican methods, p. 93. History and Nature, p. 94. Form and Law, p. 97. Physiognomic 

and Systematic, p. 100. Cultures as organisms, p. 104. Inner form, tempo, duration, p. 108. 

Homology, p. m. What is meant by "contemporary," p. 112.. 

Chapter IV. The Problem of World-history. (2.) The Destiny-idea and 
the Causality-principle 115 

Logic, organic and inorganic, p. 117. Time and Destiny, p. 119. Space and Causality, p. 119. 
The problem of Time, p. 12.1. Time a counter-conception to Space, p. 12.6. The symbols of 
Time — tragedy, time reckoning, disposal of the dead, p. 130. Care (sex, the State, worlds), 
p. 136. Destiny and Incident, p. 139. Incident and Cause, p. 141. Incident and Style of exist- 
ence, p. 141. Anonymous and personal epochs, p. 148. Direction into the future and Image of 
the Past, p. 152.. Is there a Science of History? p. 155. The new enunciation of the problem, 
p. 159. 

Chapter V. Makrokosmos. (i) The Symbolism of the World-picture and 
the Problem of Space 161 

The Macrocosm as the sum total of symbols referred to a Soul, p. 163. Space and Death, p. 
165. " Alles vergangliche ist nur ein Gleichnis," p. 167. The space problem (only Depth is 
space-forming), p. 169. Depth as Time, p. 171. The world-idea of a Culture born out of its 
prime symbol, p. 174. Classical Body, Magian Cavern, Western Infinity, p. 174. 



xviii CONTENTS 

Chapter VI. Makrokosmos. (z) Apollinian, Faustian, and Magian 
Soul v 181 

Prime symbol, architecture, divinities, p. 183. The Egyptian prime symbol of the path, p. 
188. Expression-language of art: Ornamentation and Imitation, p. 191. Ornament and early 
architecture, p. 196. The window, p. 199. The grand style, p. 100. The history of a Style as 
organism, p. 105 . On the history of the Arabian style, p. xoj. Psychology of art-technique, 
p. 114. 

Chapter VII. Music and Plastic, (i) The Arts of Form 2.17 

Music one of the arts of form, p. 119. Classification of the arts impossible except from the 
historical standpoint, p. zii. The choice of particular arts itself an expression-means of the 
higher order, p. zii. Apollinian and Faustian art-groups, p. 124. The stages of Western Music, 
p. 116. The Renaissance an anti-Gothic and anti-musical movement, p. 131. Character of the 
Baroque, p. 136. The Park, p. 240. Symbolism of colours, p. 245. Colours of the Near and of 
the Distance, p. 246. Gold background and Rembrandt brown, p. 247. Patina, p. 153. 

Chapter VIII. Music amd Plastic. (2.) Act and Portrait 2.57 

Kinds of human representation, p. 2.59. Portraiture, Contrition, Syntax, p. 2.61 . The heads of 
Classical statuary, p. 164. Portrayal of children and women, p. 2.66. Hellenistic portraiture, 
p. 169. The Baroque portrait, p. 171. Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo overcome the 
Renaissance, p. 173. Victory of Instrumental Music over Oil-Painting, corresponding to the 
victory of Statuary over Fresco in the Classical, p. 181. Impressionism, p. 185 . Pergamum and 
Bayreuth, p. 191. The finale of Art, p. 193. 

Chapter IX. Soul-image and Life-feeling, (i) On the Form of the 
Soul 197 

Soul-image as function of World-image, p. 199. Psychology of a counter-physics, p. 301. 
Apollinian, Magian and Faustian soul-image, p. 305. The " Will " in Gothic space, p. 308. The 
" inner" mythology, p. 311. Will and Character, p. 314. Classical posture tragedy and Faustian 
character tragedy, p. 317. Symbolism of the drama-image, p. 310. Day and Night Art, p. 324. 
Popular and esoteric, p. 316. The astronomical image, 319. The geographical horizon, p. 331. 

Chapter X. Soul-image and Life-feeling. (2.) Buddhism, Stoicism, and 
Socialism 339 

The Faustian morale purely dynamic, p. 341. Every Culture has a form of morale proper to 
itself, p. 345. Posture-morale and will-morale, p. 347. Buddha, Socrates, Rousseau as protago- 
nists of the dawning Civilizations, p. 351. Tragic and plebeian morale, p. 354. Return to 
Nature, Irreligion, Nihilism, p. 356. Ethical Socialism, p. 361. Similarity of structure in the 
philosophical history of every Culture, p. 364. The Civilized philosophy of the West, p. 365. 

Chapter XL Faustian and Apollinian Nature-knowledge 375 

Theory as Myth, p. 377. Every Natural Science depends upon a preceding Religion, p. 391. 
Statics, Alchemy, Dynamics as the theories of three Cultures, p. 381. The Atomic theory, p. 384. 
The problem of motion insoluble, p. 388. The style of causal process and experience, p. 391. 
The feeling of God and the knowing of Nature, p. 391. The great Myth, p. 394. Classical, 
Magian and Faustian numina, p. 397. Atheism, p. 408. Faustian physics as a dogma of force, 
p. 411. Limits of its theoretical (as distinct from its technical) development, p. 417. Self- 
destruction of Dynamics, and invasion of historical ideas; theory dissolves into a system of 
morphological relationships, p. 410. 

Index 42.3 

Tables Illustrating the Comparative Morphology of History 

At end of volume 



CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTION 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTION 



In this book is attempted for the first time the venture of predetermining his- 
tory, of following the still untravelled stages in the destiny of a Culture, and 
specifically of the only Culture of our time and on our planet which is actu- 
ally in the phase of fulfilment — the West-European- American. 

Hitherto the possibility of solving a problem so far-reaching has evidently 
never been envisaged, and even if it had been so, the means of dealing with it 
were either altogether unsuspected or, at best, inadequately used. 

Is there a logic of history? Is there, beyond all the casual and incalculable 
elements of the separate events, something that we may call a metaphysical 
structure of historic humanity, something that is essentially independent of 
the outward forms — social, spiritual and political — which we see so clearly? 
Are not these actualities indeed secondary or derived from that something? 
Does world-history present to the seeing eye certain grand traits, again and 
again, with sufficient constancy to justify certain conclusions? And if so, what 
are the limits to which reasoning from such premisses may be pushed? 

Is it possible to find in life itself — for human history is the sum of mighty 
life-courses which already have had to be endowed with ego and personality, 
in customary thought and expression, by predicating entities of a higher order 
like "the Classical* ' or "the Chinese Culture," "Modern Civilization" — a 
series of stages which must be traversed, and traversed moreover in an ordered 
and obligatory sequence? For everything organic the notions of birth, death, 
youth, age, lifetime are fundamentals — may not these notions, in this sphere 
also, possess a rigorous meaning which no one has as yet extracted? In short, 
is all history founded upon general biographic archetypes? 

The decline of the West, which at first sight may appear, like the corre- 
sponding decline of the Classical Culture, a phenomenon limited in time and 
space, we now perceive to be a philosophical problem, that, when compre- 
hended in all its gravity, includes within itself every great question of 
Being. 

If therefore we are to discover in what form the destiny of the Western 
Culture will be accomplished, we must first be clear as to what culture is, what 
its relations are to visible history, to life, to soul, to nature, to intellect, what 
the forms of its manifestation are and how far these forms — peoples, tongues 

3 



4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

and epochs, battles and ideas, states and gods, arts and craft-works, sciences, 
laws, economic types and world-ideas, great men and great events — may be 
accepted and pointed to as symbols. 

ii 

The means whereby to identify dead forms is Mathematical Law. The 
means whereby to understand living forms is Analogy. By these means we 
are enabled to distinguish polarity and periodicity in the world. 

It is, and has always been, a matter of knowledge that the expression-forms 
of world-history are limited in number, and that eras, epochs, situations, 
persons are ever repeating themselves true to type. Napoleon has hardly ever 
been discussed without a side-glance at Csesar and Alexander — analogies of 
which, as we shall see, the first is morphologically quite inacceptable and the 
second is correct — while Napoleon himself conceived of his situation as akin 
to Charlemagne's. The French Revolutionary Convention spoke of Carthage 
when it meant England, and the Jacobins styled themselves Romans. Other 
such comparisons, of all degrees of soundness and unsoundness, are those of 
Florence with Athens, Buddha with Christ, primitive Christianity with 
modern Socialism, the Roman financial magnate of Csesar's time with the 
Yankee. Petrarch, the first passionate archaeologist (and is not archaeology it- 
self an expression of the sense that history is repetition?) related himself men- 
tally to Cicero, and but lately Cecil Rhodes, the organizer of British South 
Africa, who had in his library specially prepared translations of the classical 
lives of the Caesars, felt himself akin to the Emperor Hadrian. The fated 
Charles XII of Sweden used to carry Quintus Curtius's life of Alexander in his 
pocket, and to copy that conqueror was his deliberate purpose. 

Frederick the Great, in his political writings — such as his Considirations, 
1738 — moves among analogies with perfect assurance. Thus he compares 
the French to the Macedonians under Philip and the Germans to the Greeks. 
4 'Even now," he says, "the Thermopylae of Germany, Alsace and Lorraine, 
are in the hands of Philip," therein exactly characterizing the policy of Car- 
dinal Fleury. We find him drawing parallels also between the policies of the 
Houses of Habsburg and Bourbon and the proscriptions of Antony and of 
Octavius. 

Still, all this was only fragmentary and arbitrary, and usually implied rather 
a momentary inclination to poetical or ingenious expressions than a really deep 
sense of historical forms. 

Thus in the case of Ranke, a master of artistic analogy, we find that his 
parallels of Cyaxares and Henry the Fowler, of the inroads of the Cimmerians 
and those of the Hungarians, possess morphologically no significance, and his 
oft-quoted analogy between the Hellenic city-states and the Renaissance 
republics very little, while the deeper truth in his comparison of Alcibiades 



INTRODUCTION 5 

and Napoleon is accidental. Unlike the strict mathematician, who finds inner 
relationships between two groups of differential equations where the layman 
sees nothing but dissimilarities of outward form, Ranke and others draw their 
historical analogies with a Plutarchian, popular-romantic, touch, and aim 
merely at presenting comparable scenes on the world-stage. 

It is easy to see that, at bottom, it is neither a principle nor a sense of his- 
toric necessity, but simple inclination, that governs the choice of the tableaux. 
From any technique of analogies we are far distant. They throng up (to-day more 
than ever) without scheme or unities, and if they do hit upon something which 
is true — in the essential sense of the word that remains to be determined — 
it is thanks to luck, more rarely to instinct, never to a principle. In this re- 
gion no one hitherto has set himself to work out a method, nor has had the 
slightest inkling that there is here a root, in fact the only root, from which 
can come a broad solution of the problems of History. 

Analogies, in so far as they laid bare the organic structure of history, might 
be a blessing to historical thought. Their technique, developing under the in- 
fluence of a comprehensive idea, would surely eventuate in inevitable conclu- 
sions and logical mastery. But as hitherto understood and practised they have 
been a curse, for they have enabled the historians to follow their own tastes, 
instead of soberly realizing that their first and hardest task was concerned with 
the symbolism of history and its analogies, and, in consequence, the problem 
has till now not even been comprehended, let alone solved. Superficial in many 
cases (as for instance in designating Csesar as the creator of the official news- 
paper), these analogies are worse than superficial in others (as when phenomena 
of the Classical Age that are not only extremely complex but utterly alien to 
us are labelled with modern catchwords like Socialism, Impressionism, Capital- 
ism, Clericalism), while occasionally they are bizarre to the point of perver- 
sity — witness the Jacobin clubs with their cult of Brutus, that millionaire- 
extortioner Brutus who, in the name of oligarchical doctrine and with the 
approval of the patrician senate, murdered the Man of the Democracy. 



111 



Thus our theme, which originally comprised only the limited problem of 
present-day civilization, broadens itself into a new philosophy — the philos- 
ophy of the future, so far as the metaphysically-exhausted soil of the West 
can bear such, and in any case the only philosophy which is within the 
possibilities of the West-European mind in its next stages. It expands into the 
conception of a morphology of world history, of the world-as-history in contrast to 
the morphology of the world-as-nature that hitherto has been almost the only 
theme of philosophy. And it reviews once again the forms and movements 
of the world in their depths and final significance, but this time according to 
an entirely different ordering which groups them, not in an ensemble picture 



6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

inclusive of everything known, but in a picture of life, and presents them not 
as things-become, but as things-becoming. 

The world-as-history, conceived, viewed and given form from out of its oppo- 
site the world-as-nature — here is a new aspect of human existence on this earth. 
As yet, in spite of its immense significance, both practical and theoretical, this 
aspect has not been realized, still less presented. Some obscure inkling of it 
there may have been, a distant momentary glimpse there has often been, but 
no one has deliberately faced it and taken it in with all its implications. We 
have before us two possible ways in which man may inwardly possess and ex- 
perience the world around him. With all rigour I distinguish (as to form, not 
substance) the organic from the mechanical world-impression, the content of 
images from that of laws, the picture and symbol from the formula and the 
system, the instantly actual from the constantly possible, the intents and pur- 
poses of imagination ordering according to plan from the intents and purposes 
of experience dissecting according to scheme; and — to mention even thus early 
an opposition that has never yet been noted, in spite of its significance — the 
domain of chronological from that of mathematical number. 1 

Consequently, in a research such as that lying before us, there can be no 
question of taking spiritual-political events, as they become visible day by day 
on the surface, at their face value, and arranging them on a scheme of "causes " 
or " effects' ' and following them up in the obvious and intellectually easy 
directions. Such a " pragmatic* ' handling of history would be nothing but a 
piece of "natural science* ' in disguise, and for their part, the supporters of the 
materialistic idea of history make no secret about it — it is their adversaries 
who largely fail to see the similarity of the two methods. What concerns us is 
not what the historical facts which appear at this or that time are, per se, but 
what they signify, what they point to, by appearing. Present-day historians 
think they are doing a work of supererogation in bringing in religious and so- 
cial, or still more art-history, details to 44 illustrate " the political sense of an 
epoch. But the decisive factor — decisive, that is, in so far as visible history 
is the expression, sign and embodiment of soul — they forget. I have not 
hitherto found one who has carefully considered the morphological relationship 
that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of a Culture, 
who has gone beyond politics to grasp the ultimate and fundamental ideas of 
Greeks, Arabians, Indians and Westerners in mathematics, the meaning of their 

1 Kant's error, an error of very wide bearing which has not even yet been overcome, was first 
of all in bringing the outer and inner Man into relation with the ideas of space and time by pure 
scheme, though the meanings of these are numerous and, above all, not unalterable; and secondly in 
allying arithmetic with the one and geometry with the other in an utterly mistaken way. It is not 
between arithmetic and geometry — we must here anticipate a little — but between chronological 
and mathematical number that there is fundamental opposition. Arithmetic and geometry are both 
spatial mathematics and in their higher regions they are no longer separable. Time-reckoning, of 
which the plain man is capable of a perfectly clear understanding through his senses, answers the 
question "When," not "What" or "How Many." 



INTRODUCTION 7 

early ornamentation, the basic forms of their architecture, philosophies, dramas 
and lyrics, their choice and development of great arts, the detail of their crafts- 
manship and choice of materials — let alone appreciated the decisive importance 
of these matters for the form-problems of history. Who amongst them realizes 
that between the Differential Calculus and the dynastic principle of politics in 
the age of Louis XIV, between the Classical city-state and the Euclidean 
geometry, between the space-perspective of Western oil-painting and the con- 
quest of space by railroad, telephone and long-range weapon, between contra- 
puntal music and credit economics, there are deep uniformities? Yet, viewed 
from this morphological standpoint, even the humdrum facts of politics assume 
a symbolic and even a metaphysical character, and — what has perhaps been 
impossible hitherto — things such as the Egyptian administrative system, the 
Classical coinage, analytical geometry, the cheque, the Suez Canal, the book- 
printing of the Chinese, the Prussian Army, and the Roman road-engineering 
can, as symbols, be made uniformly understandable and appreciable. 

But at once the fact presents itself that as yet there exists no theory- 
enlightened art of historical treatment. What passes as such draws its methods 
almost exclusively from the domain of that science which alone has completely 
disciplined the methods of cognition, viz., physics,and thus we imagine our- 
selves to be carrying on historical research when we are really following out 
objective connexions of cause and effect. It is a remarkable fact that the old- 
fashioned philosophy never imagined even the possibility of there being any 
other relation than this between the conscious human understanding and the 
world outside. Kant, who in his main work established the formal rules of 
cognition, took nature only as the object of reason's activity, and neither he 
himself, nor anyone after him, noted the reservation. Knowledge, for Kant, is 
mathematical knowledge. He deals with innate intuition-forms and categories 
of the reason, but he never thinks of the wholly different mechanism by which 
historical impressions are apprehended. And Schopenhauer, who, significantly 
enough, retains but one of the Kantian categories, viz., causality, speaks con- 
temptuously of history. 1 That there is, besides a necessity of cause and effect — 
which I may call the logic of space — another necessity, an organic necessity in 
life, that of Destiny — the logic of time — is a fact of the deepest inward cer- 
tainty, a fact which suffuses the whole of mythological religions and artistic 
thought and constitutes the essence and kernel of all history (in contradistinc- 
tion to nature) but is unapproachable through the cognition-forms which the 
"Critique of Pure Reason" investigates. This fact still awaits its theoretical 
formulation. As Galileo says in a famous passage of his Saggiatore, philosophy, 

1 One cannot but be sensible how little depth and power of abstraction has been associated with 
the treatment of, say, the Renaissance or the Great Migrations, as compared with what is obviously 
required for the theory of functions and theoretical optics. Judged by the standards of the physicist 
and the mathematician, the historian becomes careless as soon as he has assembled and ordered his 
material and passes on to interpretation. 



8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

as Nature's great book, is written "in mathematical language." We await, 
to-day, the philosopher who will tell us in what language history is written 
and how it is to be read. 

Mathematics and the principle of Causality lead to a naturalistic, Chro- 
nology and the idea of Destiny to a historical ordering of the phe- 
nomenal world. Both orderings, each on its own account, cover the whole 
world. The difference is only in the eyes by which and through which this 
world is realized. 

IV 

Nature is the shape in which the man of higher Cultures synthesizes and 
interprets the immediate impressions of his senses. History is that from 
which his imagination seeks comprehension of the living existence of the 
world in relation to his own life, which he thereby invests with a deeper 
reality. Whether he is capable of creating these shapes, which of them it is 
that dominates his waking consciousness, is a primordial problem of all human 
existence. 

Man, thus, has before him two -possibilities of world-formation. But it must 
be noted, at the very outset, that these possibilities are not necessarily actuali- 
ties, and if we are to enquire into the sense of all history we must begin by solv- 
ing a question which has never yet been put, viz., for whom is there History? 
The question is seemingly paradoxical, for history is obviously for everyone to 
this extent, that every man, with his whole existence and consciousness, is a 
part of history. But it makes a great difference whether anyone lives under the 
constant impression that his life is an element in a far wider life-course that 
goes on for hundreds and thousands of years, or conceives of himself as some- 
thing rounded off and self-contained. For the latter type of consciousness there 
is certaintly no world-history, no world-as-history. But how if the self- 
consciousness of a whole nation, how if a whole Culture rests on this ahistoric 
spirit? How must actuality appear to it? The world? Life? Consider the 
Classical Culture. In the world-consciousness of the Hellenes all experience, 
not merely the personal but the common past, was immediately transmuted 
into a timeless, immobile, mythically-fashioned background for the particular 
momentary present; thus the history of Alexander the Great began even before 
his death to be merged by Classical sentiment in the Dionysus legend, and to 
Cassar there seemed at the least nothing preposterous in claiming descent from 
Venus. 

Such a spiritual condition it is practically impossible for us men of the West, 
with a sense of time-distances so strong that we habitually and unquestioningly 
speak of so many years before or after Christ, to reproduce in ourselves. But 
we are not on that account entitled, in dealing with the problems of History, 
simply to ignore the fact. 



INTRODUCTION 9 

What diaries and autobiographies yield in respect of an individual, that 
historical research in the widest and most inclusive sense — that is, every kind 
of psychological comparison and analysis of alien peoples, times and customs — 
yields as to the soul of a Culture as a whole. But the Classical culture possessed 
no memory, no organ of history in this special sense. The memory of the Classi- 
cal man — so to call it, though it is somewhat arbitrary to apply to alien souls 
a notion derived from our own — is something different, since past and future, 
as arraying perspectives in the working consciousness, are absent and the 
"pure Present," which so often roused Goethe's admiration in every product 
of the Classical life and in sculpture particularly, fills that life with an intensity 
that to us is perfectly unknown. 

This pure Present, whose greatest symbol is the Doric column, in itself pred- 
icates the negation of time (of direction). For Herodotus and Sophocles, as for 
Themis tocles or a Roman consul, the past is subtilized instantly into an im- 
pression that is timeless and- changeless, polar and not periodic in structure — in 
the last analysis, of such stuff as myths are made of — whereas for our world- 
sense and our inner eye the past is a definitely periodic and purposeful organism 
of centuries or millennia. 

But it is just this background which gives the life, whether it be the Clas- 
sical or the Western life, its special colouring. What the Greek called Kosmos 
was the image of a world that is not continuous but complete. Inevitably, then, 
the Greek man himself was not a series but a term. 1 

For this reason, although Classical man was well acquainted with the 
strict chronology and almanac-reckoning of the Babylonians and especially the 
Egyptians, and therefore with that eternity-sense and disregard of the present- 
as-such which revealed itself in their broadly-conceived operations of astronomy 
and their exact measurements of big time-intervals, none of this ever became 
intimately a. part of him. What his philosophers occasionally told him on the 
subject they had heard, not experienced, and what a few brilliant minds in the 
Asiatic-Greek cities (such as Hipparchus and Aristarchus) discovered was re- 
jected alike by the Stoic and by the Aristotelian, and outside a small professional 
circle not even noticed. Neither Plato nor Aristotle had an observatory. 
In the last years of Pericles, the Athenian people passed a decree by which all 
who propagated astronomical theories were made liable to impeachment 
(el<rayye\ia). This last was an act of the deepest symbolic significance, ex- 
pressive of the determination of the Classical soul to banish distance, in every 
aspect, from its world-consciousness. 

As regards Classical history-writing, take Thucydides. The mastery of this 
man lies in his truly Classical power of making alive and self-explanatory the 
events of the present, and also in his possession of the magnificently practical 

1 In the original, these fundamental antitheses are expressed simply by means of werden and sein. 
Exact renderings are therefore impossible in English. — Tr. 



io THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

outlook of the born statesman who has himself been both general and adminis- 
trator. In virtue of this quality of experience (which we unfortunately confuse 
with the historical sense proper), his work confronts the merely learned and 
professional historian as an inimitable model, and quite rightly so. But what 
is absolutely hidden from Thucydides is perspective, the power of surveying 
the history of centuries, that which for us is implicit in the very conception of 
a historian. The fine pieces of Classical history-writing are invariably those 
which set forth matters within the political present of the writer, whereas for 
us it is the direct opposite, our historical masterpieces without exception being 
those which deal with a distant past. Thucydides would have broken down 
in handling even the Persian Wars, let alone the general history of Greece, 
while that of Egypt would have been utterly out of his reach. He, as well as 
Polybius and Tacitus (who like him were practical politicians), loses his sure- 
ness of eye from the moment when, in looking backwards, he encounters motive 
forces in any form that is unknown in his practical experience. For Polybius 
even the First Punic War, for Tacitus even the reign of Augustus, are inex- 
plicable. As for Thucydides, his lack of historical feeling — in our sense of the 
phrase — is conclusively demonstrated on the very first page of his book by 
the astounding statement that before his time (about 400 b.c.) no events of 
importance had occurred (pi) ney&ha yeifkadai) in the world! * 

Consequently, Classical history down to the Persian Wars and for that 
matter the structure built up on traditions at much later periods, are the prod- 
uct of an essentially mythological thinking. The constitutional history of 

1 The attempts of the Greeks to frame something like a calendar or a chronology after the 
Egyptian fashion, besides being very belated indeed, were of extreme naivett. The Olympiad reckon- 
ing is not an era in the sense of, say, the Christian chronology, and is, moreover, a late and purely 
literary expedient, without popular currency. The people, in fact, had no general need of a numera- 
tion wherewith to date the experiences of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, though a few 
learned persons might be interested in the calendar question. We are not here concerned with the 
soundness or unsoundness of a calendar, but with its currency, with the question of whether men 
regulated their lives by it or not; but, incidentally, even the list of Olympian victors before 500 is 
quite as much of an invention as the lists of earlier Athenian archons or Roman consuls. Of the 
colonizations, we possess not one single authentic date (E. Meyer. Gesch. d. Alt. II, 441. Beloch. 
Griecb. Gesch . I, x, 119) "in Greece before the fifth century, no one ever thought of noting or 
reporting historical events." (Beloch. I, 1, 1x5). We possess an inscription which sets forth a 
treaty between Elis and Heraea which "was to be valid for a hundred years from this year." 
What "this year" was, is however not indicated. After a few years no one would have known 
how long the treaty had still to run. Evidently this was a point that no one had taken into account 
at the time — indeed, the very "men of the moment" who drew up the document, probably them- 
selves soon forgot. Such was the childlike, fairy-story character of the Classical presentation of 
history that any ordered dating of the events of, say, the Trojan War (which occupies in their series 
the same position as the Crusades in ours) would have been felt as a sheer solecism. 

Equally backward was the geographical science of the Classical world as compared with that of 
the Egyptians and the Babylonians. E. Meyer (Gesch. d. Alt. II, iox) shows how the Greeks' knowl- 
edge of the form of Africa degenerated from Herodotus (who followed Persian authorities) to 
Aristotle. The same is true of the Romans as the heirs of the Carthaginians; they first repeated the 
information of their alien forerunners and then slowly forgot it. 



INTRODUCTION n 

Sparta is a poem of the Hellenistic period, and Lycurgus, on whom it centres 
and whose "biography" we are given in full detail, was probably in the 
beginning an unimportant local god of Mount Taygetus. The invention of 
pre-Hannibalian Roman history was still going on even in Cassar's time. The 
story of the expulsion of the Tarquins by Brutus is built round some contem- 
porary of the Censor Appius Claudius (310 b.c.)* The names of the Roman 
kings were at that period made up from the names of certain plebeian families 
which had become wealthy (K. J. Neumann). In the sphere of constitutional 
history, setting aside altogether the "constitution" of Servius Tullius, we 
find that even the famous land law of Licinius (367 b.c.) was not in existence 
at the time of the Second Punic War (B. Niese). When Epaminondas gave 
freedom and statehood to the Messenians and the Arcadians, these peoples 
promptly provided themselves with an early history. But the astounding 
thing is not that history of this sort was produced, but that there was prac- 
tically none of any other sort; and the opposition between the Classical and 
the modern outlook is sufficiently illustrated by saying that Roman history 
before x^o b.c, as known in Csesar's time, was substantially a forgery, and that 
the little that we know has been established by ourselves and was entirely 
unknown to the later Romans. In what sense the Classical world understood 
the word "history" we can see from the fact that the Alexandrine romance- 
literature exercised the strongest influence upon serious political and religious 
history, even as regards its matter. It never entered the Classical head to draw 
any distinction of principle between history as a story and history as docu- 
ments. When, towards the end of the Roman republic, Varro set out to stabi- 
lize the religion that was fast vanishing from the people's consciousness, he 
classified the deities whose cult was exactly and minutely observed by the State, into 
"certain" and "uncertain" gods, i.e., into gods of whom something was still 
known and gods that, in spite of the unbroken continuity of official worship, 
had survived in name only. In actual fact, the religion of Roman society in 
Varro's time, the poet's religion which Goethe and even Nietzsche reproduced 
in all innocence, was mainly a product of Hellenistic literature and had almost 
no relation to the ancient practices, which no one any longer understood. 

Mommsen clearly defined the West-European attitude towards this history 
when he said that " the Roman historians," meaning especially Tacitus, "were 
men who said what it would have been meritorious to omit, and omitted what 
it was essential to say." 

In the Indian Culture we have the perfectly ahistoric soul. Its decisive ex- 
pression is the Brahman Nirvana. There is no pure Indian astronomy, no 
calendar, and therefore no history so far as history is the track of a conscious 
spiritual evolution. Of the visible course of their Culture, which as regards its 
organic phase came to an end with the rise of Buddhism, we know even less 
than we do of Classical history, rich though it must have been in great events 



12. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

between the iith and 8th centuries. And this is not surprising, since it was in 
dream-shapes and mythological figures that both came to be fixed. It is a full 
millennium after Buddha, about 500 a.d., when Ceylon first produces something 
remotely resembling historical work, the "Mahavansa." 

The world-consciousness of Indian man was so ahistorically built that it 
could not even treat the appearance of a book written by a single author as an 
event determinate in time. Instead of an organic series of writings by specific 
persons, there came into being gradually a vague mass of texts into which 
everyone inserted what he pleased, and notions such as those of intellectual 
individualism, intellectual evolution, intellectual epochs, played no part in the 
matter. It is in this anonymous form that we possess the Indian philosophy — 
which is at the same time all the Indian history that we have — and it is in- 
structive to compare with it the philosophy-history of the West, which is a 
perfectly definite structure made up of individual books and personalities. 

Indian man forgot everything, but Egyptian man forgot nothing. Hence, 
while the art of portraiture — which is biography in the kernel — was un- 
known in India, in Egypt it was practically the artist's only theme. 

The Egyptian soul, conspicuously historical in its texture and impelled 
with primitive passion towards the infinite, perceived past and future as its 
whole world, and the present (which is identical with waking consciousness) 
appeared to him simply as the narrow common frontier of two immeasurable 
stretches. The Egyptian Culture is an embodiment of care — which is the 
spiritual counterpoise of distance — care for the future expressed in the choice 
of granite or basalt as the craftsman's materials, 1 in the chiselled archives, in 
the elaborate administrative system, in the net of irrigation works, 2 and, 
necessarily bound up therewith, care for the past. The Egyptian mummy is a 
symbol of the first importance. The body of the dead man was made everlasting, 
just as his personality, his "Ka," was immortalized through the portrait- 

1 Contrast with this the fact, symbolically of the highest importance and unparallelled in art- 
history, that the Hellenes, though they had before their eyes the works of the Mycenaean Age and 
their land was only too rich in stone, deliberately reverted to wood; hence the absence of architectural 
remains of the period 12.00-600. The Egyptian plant-column was from the outset of stone, whereas 
the Doric column was wooden, a clear indication of the intense antipathy of the Classical soul to- 
wards duration. 

2 Is there any Hellenic city that ever carried out one single comprehensive work that tells of 
care for future generations? The road and water systems which research has assigned to the My- 
cenaean — i.e., the pre-Classical — age fell into disrepair and oblivion from the birth of the Classical 
peoples — that is, from the Homeric period. It is a remarkably curious fact, proved beyond doubt 
by the lack of epigraphic remains, that the Classical alphabet did not come into use till after 900, 
and even then only to a limited extent and for the most pressing economic needs. Whereas in the 
Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Mexican and the Chinese Cultures the formation of a script begins in 
the very twilight of dawn, whereas the Germans made themselves a Runic alphabet and presently 
developed that respect for writing as such which led to the successive refinements of ornamental 
calligraphy, the Classical primitives were entirely ignorant of the numerous alphabets that were 
current in the South and the East. We possess numerous inscriptions of Hittite Asia Minor and of 
Crete, but not one of Homeric Greece. (See Vol. II, pp. 180 et seq.) 



INTRODUCTION 13 

statuettes, which were often made in many copies and to which it was con- 
ceived to be attached by a transcendental likeness. 

There is a deep relation between the attitude that is taken towards the 
historic past and the conception that is formed of death, and this relation is 
expressed in the disposal of the dead. The Egyptian denied mortality, the 
Classical man affirmed it in the whole symbolism of his Culture. The Egyp- 
tians embalmed even their history in chronological dates and figures. From 
pre-Solonian Greece nothing has been handed down, not a year-date, not a true 
name, not a tangible event — with the consequence that the later history, 
(which alone we know) assumes undue importance — but for Egypt we possess, 
from the 3rd millennium and even earlier, the names and even the exact reign- 
dates of many of the kings, and the New Empire must have had a complete 
knowledge of them. To-day, pathetic symbols of the will to endure, the 
bodies of the great Pharaohs lie in our museums, their faces still recognizable. 
On the shining, polished-granite peak of the pyramid of Amenemhet III we can 
read to-day the words "Amenemhet looks upon the beauty of the Sun" and, 
on the other side, "Higher is the soul of Amenemhet than the height of Orion, 
and it is united with the underworld." Here indeed is victory over Mortality 
and the mere present; it is to the last degree un-Classical. 



In opposition to this mighty group of Egyptian life-symbols, we meet at the 
threshold of the Classical Culture the custom, typifying the ease with which it 
could forget every piece of its inward and outward past, of burning the dead. To 
the Mycenaean age the elevation into a ritual of this particular funerary method 
amongst all those practised in turn by stone-age peoples, was essentially alien; 
indeed its Royal tombs suggest that earth-burial was regarded as peculiarly 
honourable. But in Homeric Greece, as in Vedic India, we find a change, so 
sudden that its origins must necessarily be psychological, from burial to that 
burning which (the Iliad gives us the full pathos of the symbolic act) was the 
ceremonial completion of death and the denial of all historical duration. 

From this moment the plasticity of the individual spiritual evolution was 
at an end. Classical drama admitted truly historical motives just as little as it 
allowed themes of inward evolution, and it is well known how decisively the 
Hellenic instinct set itself against portraiture in the arts. Right into the im- 
perial period Classical art handled only the matter that was, so to say, natural 
to it, the myth. 1 Even the " ideal* ' portraits of Hellenistic sculpture are 

1 From Homer to the tragedies of Seneca, a full thousand years, the same handful of my th-figures 
(Thyestes, Clytaemnestra, Heracles and the like) appear time after time without alteration, whereas 
in the poetry of the West, Faustian Man figures, first as Parzeval or Tristan, then (modified always 
into harmony with the epoch) as Hamlet, Don Quixote, Don Juan, and eventually Faust or Werther, 
and now as the hero of the modern world-city romance, but is always presented in the atmosphere and 
under the conditions of a particular century. 



14 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

mythical, of the same kind as the typical biographies of Plutarch's sort. No 
great Greek ever wrote down any recollections that would serve to fix a 
phase of experience for his inner eye. Not even Socrates has told, regarding 
his inward life, anything important in our sense of the word. It is ques- 
tionable indeed whether for a Classical mind it was even possible to react 
to the motive forces that are presupposed in the production of a Parzeval, 
a Hamlet, or a Werther. In Plato we fail to observe any conscious evolu- 
tion of doctrine; his separate works are merely treatises written from very 
different standpoints which he took up from time to time, and it gave 
him no concern whether and how they hung together. On the contrary, a 
work of deep self-examination, the Vita Nuova of Dante, is found at the 
very outset of the spiritual history of the West. How little therefore of the 
Classical pure-present there really was in Goethe, the man who forgot nothing, 
the man whose works, as he avowed himself, are only fragments of a single 
great confession! 

After the destruction of Athens by the Persians, all the older art-works were 
thrown on the dustheap (whence we are now extracting them), and we do not 
hear that anyone in Hellas ever troubled himself about the ruins of Mycenae or 
Phaistos for the purpose of ascertaining historical facts. Men read Homer but 
never thought of excavating the hill of Troy as Schliemann did; for what they 
wanted was myth, not history. The works of iEschylus and those of the pre- 
Socratic philosophers were already partially lost in the Hellenistic period. 
In the West, on the contrary, the piety inherent in and peculiar to the Culture 
manifested itself, five centuries before Schliemann, in Petrarch — the fine 
collector of antiquities, coins and manuscripts, the very type of historically- 
sensitive man, viewing the distant past and scanning the distant prospect (was 
he not the first to attempt an Alpine peak?), living in his time, yet essentially 
not of it. The soul of the collector is intelligible only by having regard to his 
conception of Time. Even more passionate perhaps, though of a different 
colouring, is the collecting-bent of the Chinese. In China, whoever travels 
assiduously pursues "old traces" (Ku-tsi) and the untranslatable "Tao," the 
basic principle of Chinese existence, derives all its meaning from a deep his- 
torical feeling. In the Hellenistic period, objects were indeed collected and 
displayed everywhere, but they were curiosities of mythological appeal (as 
described by Pausanias) as to which questions of date or purpose simply did 
not arise — and this too in the very presence of Egypt, which even by the time 
of the great Thuthmosis had been transformed into one vast museum of strict 
tradition. 

Amongst the Western peoples, it was the Germans who discovered the 
mechanical clock, the dread symbol of the flow of time, and the chimes of 
countless clock towers that echo day and night over West Europe are 
perhaps the most wonderful expression of which a historical world-feeling is 



INTRODUCTION r 5 

capable. 1 In the timeless countrysides and cities of the Classical world, we find 
nothing of the sort. Till the epoch of Pericles, the time of day was estimated 
merely by the length of shadow, and it was only from that of Aristotle that 
the word c&pa received the (Babylonian) significance of "hour"; prior to that 
there was no exact subdivision of the day. In Babylon and Egypt water-clocks 
and sun-dials were discovered in the very early stages, yet in Athens it was 
left to Plato to introduce a practically useful form of clepsydra, and this was 
merely a minor adjunct of everyday utility which could not have influenced 
the Classical life-feeling in the smallest degree. 

It remains still to mention the corresponding difference, which is very deep 
and has never yet been properly appreciated, between Classical and modern 
mathematics. The former conceived of things as they are, as magnitudes, timeless 
and purely present, and so it proceeded to Euclidean geometry and mathematical 
statics, rounding off its intellectual system with the theory of conic sections. 
We conceive things as they become and behave, as function, and this brought us to 
dynamics, analytical geometry and thence to the Differential Calculus. 2 The 
modern theory of functions is the imposing marshalling of this whole mass of 
thought. It is a bizarre, but nevertheless psychologically exact, fact that the 
physics of the Greeks — being statics and not dynamics — neither knew the 
use nor felt the absence of the time-element, whereas we on the other hand work 
in thousandths of a second. The one and only evolution-idea that is timeless, 
ahistoric, is Aristotle's entelechy. 

This, then, is our task. We men of the Western Culture are, with our his- 
torical sense, an exception and not a rule. World-history is our world picture 
and not all mankind's. Indian and Classical man formed no image of a world in 
progress, and perhaps when in due course the civilization of the West is ex- 
tinguished, there will never again be a Culture and a human type in which 
"world-history" is so potent a form of the waking consciousness. 

VI 

What, then, is world-history? Certainly, an ordered presentation of the past, 
an inner postulate, the expression of a capacity for feeling form. But a feeling 
for form, however definite, is not the same as form itself. No doubt we feel 
world-history, experience it, and believe that it is to be read just as a map is 

1 It was about iooo a.d. and therefore contemporaneously with the beginning of the Roman- 
esque style and the Crusades — the first symptoms of a new Soul — that Abbot Gerbert (Pope 
Sylvester H), the friend of the Emperor Otto HI, invented the mechanism of the chiming wheel-clock. 
In Germany too, the first tower-clocks made their appearance, about izoo, and the pocket watch 
somewhat later. Observe the significant association of time measurement with the edifices of reli- 
gion. 

"■ 3 Newton's choice of the name "fluxions" for his calculus was meant to imply a standpoint 
towards certain metaphysical notions as to the nature of time. In Greek mathematics time figures 
not at all. 



ijS THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

read. But, even to-day, it is only forms of it that we know and not the form of 
it, which is the mirror-image of our own inner life. 

Everyone of course, if asked, would say that he saw the inward form of 
History quite clearly and definitely. The illusion subsists because no one has 
seriously reflected on it, still less conceived doubts as to his own knowledge, 
for no one has the slightest notion how wide a field for doubt there is. In fact, 
the lay-out of world-history is an unproved and subjective notion that has been 
handed down from generation to generation (not only of laymen but of profes- 
sional historians) and stands badly in need of a little of that scepticism which 
from Galileo onward has regulated and deepened our inborn ideas of nature. 

Thanks to the subdivision of history into " Ancient," "Mediaeval" and 
"Modern" — an incredibly jejune and meaningless scheme, which has, however, 
entirely dominated our historical thinking — we have failed to perceive the 
true position in the general history of higher mankind, of the little part-world 
which has developed on West-European l soil from the time of the German- 
Roman Empire, to judge of its relative importance and above all to estimate its 
direction. The Cultures that are to come will find it difficult to believe that the 
validity of such a scheme with its simple rectilinear progression and its mean- 
ingless proportions, becoming more and more preposterous with each century, 
incapable of bringing into itself the new fields of history as they successively 
come into the light of our knowledge, was, in spite of all, never whole-heartedly 
attacked. The criticisms that it has long been the fashion of historical re- 
searchers to level at the scheme mean nothing; they have only obliterated the 
one existing plan without substituting for it any other. To toy with phrases 
such as "the Greek Middle Ages" or "Germanic antiquity" does not in the 
least help us to form a clear and inwardly-convincing picture in which China 
and Mexico, the empire of Axum and that of the Sassanids have their proper 
places. And the expedient of shifting the initial point of "modern history" 

1 Here the historian is gravely influenced by preconceptions derived from geography, which 
assumes a Continent of Europe, and feels himself compelled to draw an ideal frontier corresponding to 
the physical frontier between "Europe" and "Asia/' The word "Europe" ought to be struck out 
of history. There is historically no "European " type, and it is sheer delusion to speak of the Hellenes 
as "European Antiquity ' ' (were Homer and Heraclitus and Pythagoras, then, Asiatics?) and to enlarge 
upon their "mission " as such. These phrases express no realities but merely a sketchy interpretation 
of the map. It is thanks to this word "Europe" alone, and the complex of ideas resulting from it, 
that our historical consciousness has come to link Russia with the West in an utterly baseless unity 
— a mere abstraction derived from the reading of books — that has led to immense real consequences. 
In the shape of Peter the Great, this word has falsified the historical tendencies of a primitive human 
mass for two centuries, whereas the Russian instinct has very truly and fundamentally divided "Eu- 
rope" from "Mother Russia" with the hostility that we can see embodied in Tolstoi, Aksakov or 
Dostoyevski. "East" and "West" are notions that contain real history, whereas "Europe" is 
an empty sound. Everything great that the Classical world created, it created in pure denial of the 
existence of any continental barrier between Rome and Cyprus, Byzantium and Alexandria. Every- 
thing that we imply by the term European Culture came into existence between the Vistula and the 
Adriatic and the Guadalquivir and, even if we were to agree that Greece, the Greece of Pericles, lay 
in Europe, the Greece of to-day certainly does not. 



INTRODUCTION 17 

from the Crusades to the Renaissance, or from the Renaissance to the beginning 
of the 19th Century, only goes to show that the scheme per se is regarded as un- 
shakably sound. 

It is not only that the scheme circumscribes the area of history. What is 
worse, it rigs the stage. The ground of West Europe is treated as a steady pole, 
a unique patch chosen on the surface of the sphere for no better reason, it 
seems, than because we live on it — and great histories of millennial duration 
and mighty Jar-away Cultures are made to revolve around this pole in all 
modesty. It is a quaintly conceived system of sun and planets! We select a 
single bit of ground as the natural centre of the historical system, and make it 
the central sun. From it all the events of history receive their real light, from 
it their importance is judged in perspective. But it is in our own West-European 
conceit alone that this phantom 44 world-history,' * which a breath of scepticism 
would dissipate, is acted out. 

We have to thank that conceit for the immense optical illusion (become 
natural from long habit) whereby distant histories of thousands of years, such 
as those of China and Egypt, are made to shrink to the dimensions of mere 
episodes while in the neighbourhood of our own position the decades since 
Luther, and particularly since Napoleon, loom large as Brocken-spectres. We 
know quite well that the slowness with which a high cloud or a railway train 
in the distance seems to move is only apparent, yet we believe that the tempo of 
all early Indian, Babylonian or Egyptian history was really slower than that of 
our own recent past. And we think of them as less substantial, more damped- 
down, more diluted, because we have not learned to make the allowance for 
(inward and outward) distances. 

It is self-evident that for the Cultures of the West the existence of Athens* 
Florence or Paris is more important than that of Lo-Yang or Pataliputra. But 
is it permissible to found a scheme of world-history on estimates of such a sort? 
If so, then the Chinese historian is quite entitled to frame a world-history in 
which the Crusades, the Renaissance, Caesar and Frederick the Great are passed 
over in silence as insignificant. How, from the morphological point of view, should 
our 1 8th Century be more important than any other of the sixty centuries that 
preceded it? Is it not ridiculous to oppose a ** modern' ' history of a few cen- 
turies, and that history to all intents localized in West Europe, to an ** ancient " 
history which covers as many millennia — incidentally dumping into that 
"ancient history" the whole mass of the pre-Hellenic cultures, unprobed and 
unordered, as mere appendix-matter? This is no exaggeration. Do we not, for 
the sake of keeping the hoary scheme, dispose of Egypt and Babylon — each as 
an individual and self-contained history quite equal in the balance to our so- 
called "world-history" from Charlemagne to the World-War and well beyond 
it — as a prelude to classical history? Do we not relegate the vast complexes 
of Indian and Chinese culture to foot-notes, with a gesture of embarrassment? 



18 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

As for the great American cultures, do we not, on the ground that they do not 
"fit in" (with what?), entirely ignore them? 

The most appropriate designation for this current West-European scheme of 
history, in which the great Cultures are made to follow orbits round us as the 
presumed centre of all world-happenings, is the Ptolemaic system of history. 
The system that is put forward in this work in place of it I regard as the Coper- 
nican discovery in the historical sphere, in that it admits no sort of privileged 
position to the Classical or the Western Culture as against the Cultures of India, 
Babylon, China, Egypt, the Arabs, Mexico — separate worlds of dynamic 
being which in point of mass count for just as much in the general picture of 
history as the Classical, while frequently surpassing it in point of spiritual 
greatness and soaring power. 

VII 

The scheme "ancient-mediseval-modern" in its first form was a creation of 
the Magian world-sense. It first appeared in the Persian and Jewish religions 
after Cyrus, 1 received an apocalyptic sense in the teaching of the Book of Daniel 
on the four world-eras, and was developed into a world-history in the post- 
Christian religions of the East, notably the Gnostic systems. 2 

This important conception, within the very narrow limits which fixed its 
intellectual basis, was unimpeachable. Neither Indian nor even Egyptian his- 
tory was included in the scope of the proposition. For the Magian thinker the 
expression "world-history" meant a unique and supremely dramatic act, hav- 
ing as its theatre the lands between Hellas and Persia, in which the strictly 
dualistic world-sense of the East expressed itself not by means of polar concep- 
tions like the "soul and spirit," "good and evil" of contemporary meta- 
physics, but by the figure of a catastrophe, an epochal change of phase between 
world-creation and world-decay. 3 

No elements beyond those which we find stabilized in the Classical litera- 
ture, on the one hand, and the Bible (or other sacred book of the particular sys- 
tem), on the other, came into the picture, which presents (as "The Old" and 
"The New," respectively) the easily-grasped contrasts of Gentile and Jewish, 
Christian and Heathen, Classical and Oriental, idol and dogma, nature and spirit 
with a time connotation — that is, as a drama in which the one prevails over the 
other. The historical change of period wears the characteristic dress of the 
religious "Redemption." This "world-history" in short was a conception 
narrow and provincial, but within its limits logical and complete. Necessarily, 
therefore, it was specific to this region and this humanity, and incapable of any 
natural extension. 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 31, X75- 

2 Windelband, Gescb. d. Phil. (1903), pp. 175 ff. 

» In the New Testament the polar idea tends to appear in the dialectics of the Apostle Paul, 
while the periodic is represented by the Apocalypse. 



INTRODUCTION 19 

But to these two there has been added a third epoch, the epoch that we call 
" modern,' * on Western soil, and it is this that for the first time gives the pic- 
ture of history the look of a progression. The oriental picture was at rest. It 
presented a self-contained antithesis, with equilibrium as its outcome and a 
unique divine act as its turning-point. But, adopted and assumed by a wholly 
new type of mankind, it was quickly transformed (without anyone's noticing 
the oddity of the change) into a conception of a linear progress: from Homer or 
Adam — the modern can substitute for these names the Indo-German, Old 
Stone Man, or the Pithecanthropus — through Jerusalem, Rome, Florence and 
Paris according to the taste of the individual historian, thinker or artist, who 
has unlimited freedom in the interpretation of the three-part scheme. 

This third term, "modern times," which in form asserts that it is the last 
and conclusive term of the series, has in fact, ever since the Crusades, been 
stretched and stretched again to the elastic limit at which it will bear no more. 1 
It was at least implied if not stated in so many words, that here, beyond the an- 
cient and the mediaeval, something definitive was beginning, a Third Kingdom 
in which, somewhere, there was to be fulfilment and culmination, and which 
had an objective point. 

As to what this objective point is, each thinker, from Schoolman to present- 
day Socialist, backs his own peculiar discovery. Such a view into the course of 
things may be both easy and flattering to the patentee, but in fact he has simply 
taken the spirit of the West, as reflected in his own brain, for the meaning of the 
world. So it is that great thinkers, making a metaphysical virtue of intellectual 
necessity, have not only accepted without serious investigation the scheme of 
history agreed "by common consent" but have made of it the basis of their 
philosophies and dragged in God as author of this Or that "world-plan." 
Evidently the mystic number three applied to the world-ages has something 
highly seductive for the metaphysician's taste. History was described by 
Herder as the education of the human race, by Kant as an evolution of the idea 
of freedom, by Hegel as a self-expansion of the world-spirit, by others in other 
terms, but as regards its ground-plan everyone was quite satisfied when he had 
thought out some abstract meaning for the conventional threefold order. J 

On the very threshold of the Western Culture we meet the great Joachim of 
Floris (c. 1145-12L02.), 2 the first thinker of the Hegelian stamp who shattered 
the dualistic world-form of Augustine, and with his essentially Gothic in- 
tellect stated the new Christianity of his time in the form of a third term to the 
religions of the Old and the New Testaments, expressing them respectively as 
the Age of the Father, the Age of the Son and the Age of the Holy Ghost. His 

1 As we can see from the expression, at once desperate and ridiculous, "newest time" (neueste 
Zeit). 

2 K. Burdach, Reformation, Renaissance, Humanismus, 1918, pp. 48 et seq. (English readers may 
be referred to the article Joachim of Floris by Professor Alphandery in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
XI ed., TrO 



zo THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

teaching moved the best of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, Dante, Thomas 
Aquinas, in their inmost souls and awakened a world-outlook which slowly 
but surely took entire possession of the historical sense of our Culture. Lessing 
— who often designated his own period, with reference to the Classical as the 
"after-world" 1 (Nachwelt) — took his idea of the 44 education of the human 
race" with its three stages of child, youth and man, from the teaching of the 
Fourteenth Century mystics. Ibsen treats it with thoroughness in his Emperor 
and Galilean (1873), m which he directly presents the Gnostic world-concep- 
tion through the figure of the wizard Maximus, and advances not a step beyond 
it in his famous Stockholm address of 1887. It would appear, then, that the 
Western consciousness feels itself urged to predicate a sort of finality inherent 
in its own appearance. 

But the creation of the Abbot of Floris was a mystical glance into the secrets 
of the divine world-order. It was bound to lose all meaning as soon as it was 
used in the way of reasoning and made a hypothesis of scientific thinking, as it 
has been — ever more and more frequently — since the 17th Century. 

It is a quite indefensible method of presenting world-history to begin by 
giving rein to one's own religious, political or social convictions and endowing 
the sacrosanct three-phase system with tendencies that will bring it exactly to 
one's own standpoint. This is, in effect, making of some formula — say, the 
44 Age of Reason," Humanity, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, 
enlightenment, economic progress, national freedom, the conquest of nature, 
or world-peace — a criterion whereby to judge whole millennia of history. 
And so we judge that they were ignorant of the 44 true path," or that they failed 
to follow it, when the fact is simply that their will and purposes were not the 
same as ours. Goethe's saying, 44 What is important in life is life and not a 
result of life," is the answer to any and every senseless attempt to solve the 
riddle of historical form by means of a programme. 

It is the same picture that we find when we turn to the historians of each 
special art or science (and those of national economics and philosophy as well). 
We find: 

4 "Painting" from the Egyptians (or the cave-men) to the Impressionists, or 
44 Music" from Homer to Bayreuth and beyond, or 

4 'Social Organization" from Lake Dwellings to Socialism, as the case may 
be, 
presented as a linear graph which steadily rises in conformity with the values 
of the (selected) arguments. No one has seriously considered the possibility 
that arts may have an allotted span of life and may be attached as forms 
of self-expression to particular regions and particular types of mankind, and 
that therefore the total history of an art may be merely an additive compilation 

1 The expression " antique" — meant of course in the dualistic sense — is found as early as the 
Isagoge of Porphyry (c. 300 a.d.). 



INTRODUCTION « 

of separate developments, of special arts, with no bond of union save the name 
and some details of craft-technique. 

We know it to be true of every organism that the rhythm, form and duration 
of its life, and all the expression-details of that life as well, are determined by 
the properties of its species. No one, looking at the oak, with its millennial life, 
dare say that it is at this moment, now, about to start on its true and proper 
course. No one as he sees a caterpillar grow day by day expects that it will 
go on doing so for two or three years. In these cases we feel, with an unqualified 
certainty, a limit, and this sense of the limit is identical with our sense of the 
inward form. In the case of higher human history, on the contrary, we take our 
ideas as to the course of the future from an unbridled optimism that sets at 
naught all historical, i.e., organic, experience, and everyone therefore sets him- 
self to discover in the accidental present terms that he can expand into some 
striking progression-series, the existence of which rests not on scientific proof 
but on predilection. He works upon unlimited possibilities — never a natural 
end — : and from the momentary top-course of his bricks plans artlessly the 
continuation of his structure. 

44 Mankind,' ' however, has no aim, no idea, no plan, any more than the 
family of butterflies or orchids. " Mankind" is a zoological expression, or an 
empty word. 1 But conjure away the phantom, break the magic circle, and at 
once there emerges an astonishing wealth of actual forms — the Living with all 
its immense fullness, depth and movement — hitherto veiled by a catchword, 
a dryasdust scheme, and a set of personal "ideals." I see, in place of that empty 
figment of one linear history which can only be kept up by shutting one's eyes 
to the overwhelming multitude of the facts, the drama of a number of mighty 
Cultures, each springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother- 
region to which it remains firmly bound throughout its whole life-cycle; each 
stamping its material, its mankind, in its own image; each having its own idea, its 
own passions, its own life, will and feeling, its own death. Here indeed are colours, 
lights, movements, that no intellectual eye has yet discovered. Here the Cul- 
tures, peoples, languages, truths, gods, landscapes bloom and age as the oaks 
and the stone-pines, the blossoms, twigs and leaves — but there is no ageing 
"Mankind." Each Culture has its own new possibilities of self-expression 
which arise, ripen, decay, and never return. There is not one sculpture, one paint- 
ing, one mathematics, one physics, but many, each in its deepest essence different 
from the others, each limited in duration and self-contained, just as each species 
of plant has its peculiar blossom or fruit, its special type of growth and decline. 
These cultures, sublimated life-essences, grow with the same superb aimlessness 
as the flowers of the field. They belong, like the plants and the animals, to the 
living Nature of Goethe, and not to the dead Nature of Newton. I see world- 

1 "Mankind? It is an abstraction. There are, always have been, and always will be, men and 
only men/' (Goethe to Luden.) 



vl THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

history as a picture of endless formations and transformations, of the marvellous 
waxing and waning of organic forms. The professional historian, on the con- 
trary, sees it as a sort of tapeworm industriously adding on to itself one epoch 
after another. 

But the series " ancient-mediasval-modern history" has at last exhausted its 
usefulness. Angular, narrow, shallow though it was as a scientific foundation, 
still we possessed no other form that was not wholly unphilosophical in which 
our data could be arranged, and world-history (as hitherto understood) has to 
thank it for filtering our classifiable solid residues. But the number of centuries 
that the scheme can by any stretch be made to cover has long since been ex- 
ceeded, and with the rapid increase in the volume of our historical material — 
especially of material that cannot possibly be brought under the scheme — the 
picture is beginning to dissolve into a chaotic blur. Every historical student 
who is not quite blind knows and feels this, and it is as a drowning man that he 
clutches at the only scheme which he knows of. The word "Middle Age," * 
invented in 1667 by Professor Horn of Leyden, has to-day to cover a formless 
and constantly extending mass which can only be defined, negatively, as every 
thing not classifiable under any pretext in one of the other two (tolerably well- 
ordered) groups. We have an excellent example of this in our feeble treatment 
and hesitant judgment of modern Persian, Arabian and Russian history. But, 
above all, it has become impossible to conceal the fact that this so-called history 
of the world is a limited history, first of the Eastern Mediterranean region and 
then, — with an abrupt change of scene at the Migrations (an event important 
only to us and therefore greatly exaggerated by us, an event of purely Western 
and not even Arabian significance), — of West-Central Europe. When Hegel de- 
clared so naively that he meant to ignore those peoples which did not fit into 
his scheme of history, he was only making an honest avowal of methodic 
premisses that every historian finds necessary for his purpose and every his- 
torical work shows in its lay-out. In fact it has now become an affair of 
scientific tact to determine which of the historical developments shall be 
seriously taken into account and which not. Ranke is a good example. 

VIII 

To-day we think in continents, and it is only our philosophers and historians 
who have not realized that we do so. Of what significance to us, then, are con- 
ceptions and purviews that they put before us as universally valid, when in 
truth their furthest horizon does not extend beyond the intellectual atmosphere 
of Western Man? 

Examine, from this point of view, our best books. When Plato speaks of 

1 " Middle Ages** connotes the history of the space-time region in which Latin was the language 
if the Church and the learned. The mighty course of Eastern Christianity, which, long before Boniface, 
spread over Turkestan into China and through Sabaea into Abyssinia, was entirely excluded from 
this "world-history.** 



INTRODUCTION 13 

humanity, he means the Hellenes in contrast to the barbarians, which is entirely 
consonant with the ahistoric mode of the Classical life and thought, and his 
premisses take him to conclusions that for Greeks were complete and significant. 
When, however, Kant philosophizes, say on ethical ideas, he maintains the 
validity of his theses for men of all times and places. He does not say this in 
so many words, for, for himself and his readers, it is something that goes with- 
out saying. In his aesthetics he formulates the principles, not of Phidias's art, 
or Rembrandt's art, but of Art generally. But what he poses as necessary forms 
of thought are in reality only necessary forms of Western thought, though a 
glance at Aristotle and his essentially different conclusions should have sufficed 
to show that Aristotle's intellect, not less penetrating than his own, was of 
different structure from it. The categories of the Westerner are just as alien to 
Russian thought as those of the Chinaman or the ancient Greek are to him. For 
us, the effective and complete comprehension of Classical root-words is just as 
impossible as that of Russian l and Indian, and for the modern Chinese or Arab, 
with their utterly different intellectual constitutions, "philosophy from Bacon 
to Kant" has only a curiosity-value. 

It is this that is lacking to the Western thinker, the very thinker in whom 
we might have expected to find it — insight into the historically relative char- 
acter of his data, which are expressions of one specific existence and one only; 
knowledge of the necessary limits of their validity; the conviction that his 
"unshakable" truths and "eternal" views are simply true for him and eternal 
for his world-view; the duty of looking beyond them to find out what the men 
of other Cultures have with equal certainty evolved out of themselves. That 
and nothing else will impart completeness to the philosophy of the future, and 
only through an understanding of the living world shall we understand the 
symbolism of history. Here there is nothing constant, nothing universal. We 
must cease to speak of the forms of "Thought," the principles of "Tragedy," 
the mission of "The State." Universal validity involves always the fallacy of 
arguing from particular to particular. 

But something much more disquieting than a logical fallacy begins to appear 
when the centre of gravity of philosophy shifts from the abstract-systematic 
to the practical-ethical and our Western thinkers from Schopenhauer onward 
turn from the problem of cognition to the problem of life (the will to life, to 
power, to action). Here it is not the ideal abstract "man" of Kant that is 
subjected to examination, but actual man as he has inhabited the earth during 
historical time, grouped, whether primitive or advanced, by peoples; and it is 
more than ever futile to define the structure of his highest ideas in terms of the 
" ancient-mediseval-modern" scheme with its local limitations. But it is done, 
nevertheless. 

1 See Vol. II, p. 362., foot-note. To the true Russian the basic proposition of Darwinism is as 
devoid of meaning as that of Copernicus is to a true Arab. 



14 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Consider the historical horizon of Nietzsche. His conceptions of decadence, 
militarism, the transvaluation of all values, the will to power, lie deep in the 
essence of Western civilization and are for the analysis of that civilization of 
decisive importance. But what, do we find, was the foundation on which he 
built up his creation? Romans and Greeks, Renaissance and European present, 
with a fleeting and uncomprehending side-glance at Indian philosophy — in 
short "ancient, mediaeval and modern" history. Strictly speaking, he never 
once moved outside the scheme, not did any other thinker of his time. 

What correlation, then, is there or can there be of his idea of the "Diony- 
sian" with the inner life of a highly-civilized Chinese or an up-to-date Ameri- 
can? What is the significance of his type of the "Superman" — for the world 
of Islam? Can image-forming antitheses of Nature and Intellect, Heathen and 
Christian, Classical and Modern, have any meaning for the soul of the Indian 
or the Russian? What can Tolstoi — who from the depths of his humanity 
rejected the whole Western world-idea as something alien and distant — do 
with the "Middle Ages," with Dante, with Luther? What can a Japanese do 
with Parzeval and "Zarathustra," or an Indian with Sophocles? And is the 
thought-range of Schopenhauer, Comte, Feuerbach, Hebbel or Strindberg any 
wider? Is not their whole psychology, for all its intention of world-wide 
validity, one of purely West-European significance? 

How comic seem Ibsen's woman-problems — which also challenge the 
attention of all "humanity" — when, for his famous Nora, the lady of the 
North-west European city with the horizon that is implied by a house-rent 
of £100 to £300 a year and a Protestant upbringing, we substitute Csesar's wife, 
Madame de S6vign6, a Japanese or a Turkish peasant woman! But, for that 
matter, Ibsen's own circle of vision is that of the middle class in a great city of 
yesterday and to-day. His conflicts, which start from spiritual premisses that 
did not exist till about 1850 and can scarcely last beyond 1950, are neither those 
of the great world nor those of the lower masses, still less those of the cities in- 
habited by non-European populations. 

All these are local and temporary values — most of them indeed limited 
to the momentary "intelligentsia" of cities of West-European type. World- 
historical or "eternal" values they emphatically are not. Whatever the sub- 
stantial importance of Ibsen's and Nietzsche's generation may be, it infringes 
the very meaning of the word "world-history" — which denotes the totality 
and not a selected part — to subordinate, to undervalue, or to ignore the factors 
which lie outside "modern" interests. Yet in fact they are so undervalued or 
ignored to an amazing extent. What the West has said and thought, hitherto, 
on the problems of space, time, motion, number, will, marriage, property, 
tragedy, science, has remained narrow and dubious, because men were always 
looking for the solution of the question. It was never seen that many questioners 
implies many answers, that any philosophical question is really a veiled desire 



INTRODUCTION 15 

to get an explicit affirmation of what is implicit in the question itself, that the 
great questions of any period are fluid beyond all conception, and that therefore 
it is only by obtaining a group of historically limited solutions and measuring it by 
utterly impersonal criteria that the final secrets can be reached. The real student 
of mankind treats no standpoint as absolutely right or absolutely wrong. In 
the face of such grave problems as that of Time or that of Marriage, it is in- 
sufficient to appeal to personal experience, or an inner voice, or reason, or the 
opinion of ancestors or contemporaries. These may say what is true for the 
questioner himself and for his time, but that is not all. In other Cultures the 
phenomenon talks a different language, for other men there are different truths. 
The thinker must admit the validity of all, or of none. 

How greatly, then, Western world-criticism can be widened and deepened! 
How immensely far beyond the innocent relativism of Nietzsche and his genera- 
tion one must look — how fine one's sense for form and one's psychological 
insight must become — how completely one must free oneself from limitations 
of self, of practical interests, of horizon — before one dare assert the pretension 
to understand world-history, the world-as-histoty. 

IX 

In opposition to all these arbitary and narrow schemes, derived from tradi- 
tion or personal choice, into which history is forced, I put forward the natural, 
the 44 Copernican," form of the historical process which lies deep in the essence 
of that process and reveals itself only to an eye perfectly free from prepossessions. 

Such an eye was Goethe's. That which Goethe called Living Nature is 
exactly that which we are calling here world-history, world-as-histoty. Goethe, 
who as artist portrayed the life and development, always the life and develop- 
ment, of his figures, the thing-becoming and not the thing-become ( 44 Wilhelm 
Meister" and 44 Wahrheit und Dichtung") hated Mathematics. For him, the 
world-as-mechanism stood opposed to the world-as-organism, dead nature to 
living nature, law to form. As naturalist, every line he wrote was meant to 
display the image of a thing-becoming, the 44 impressed form" living and de- 
veloping. Sympathy, observation, comparison, immediate and inward cer- 
tainty, intellectual flair — these were the means whereby he was enabled to 
approach the secrets of the phenomenal world in motion. Now these are the means 
of historical research — precisely these and no others. It was this godlike insight 
that prompted him to say at the bivouac fire on the evening of the Battle of 
Valmy: "Here and now begins a new epoch of world history, and you, gentle- 
men, can say that you 'were there.' " No general, no diplomat, let alone the 
philosophers, ever so directly felt history 44 becoming." It is the deepest judg- 
ment that any man ever uttered about a great historical act in the moment of 
its accomplishment. 

And just as he followed out the development of the plant-form from the leaf, 



i6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the birth of the vertebrate type, the process of the geological strata — the 
Destiny in nature and not the Causality — so here we shall develop the form- 
language of human history, its periodic structure, its organic logic out of the 
profusion of all the challenging details. 

In other aspects, mankind is habitually, and rightly, reckoned as one of the 
organisms of the earth's surface. Its physical structure, its natural functions, 
the whole phenomenal conception of it, all belong to a more comprehensive 
unity. Only in this aspect is it treated otherwise, despite that deeply-felt 
relationship of plant destiny and human destiny which is an eternal theme of 
all lyrical poetry, and despite that similarity of human history to that of any 
other of the higher life-groups which is the refrain of endless beast-legends, 
sagas and fables. 

But only bring analogy to bear on this aspect as on the rest, letting the 
world of human Cultures intimately and unreservedly work upon the imagina- 
tion instead of forcing it into a ready-made scheme. Let the words youth, 
growth, maturity, decay — hitherto, and to-day more than ever, used to ex- 
press subjective valuations and entirely personal preferences in sociology, ethics 
and aesthetics — be taken at last as objective descriptions of organic states. 
Set forth the Classical Culture as a self-contained phenomenon embodying and 
expressing the Classical soul, put it beside the Egyptian, the Indian, the Baby- 
lonian, the Chinese and the Western, and determine for each of these higher 
individuals what is typical in their surgings and what is necessary in the riot 
of incident. And then at last will unfold itself the picture of world-history 
that is natural to us, men of the West, and to us alone. 



Our narrower task, then, is primarily to determine, from such a world- 
survey, the state of West Europe and America as at the epoch of 1800-2.000 — 
to establish the chronological position of this period in the ensemble of Western 
culture-history, its significance as a chapter that is in one or other guise neces- 
sarily found in the biography of every Culture, and the organic and symbolic 
meaning of its political, artistic, intellectual and social expression-forms. 

Considered in the spirit of analogy, this period appears as chronologically 
parallel — " contemporary" in our special sense — with the phase of Hel- 
lenism, and its present culmination, marked by the World-War, corresponds 
with the transition from the Hellenistic to the Roman age. Rome, with its 
rigorous realism — uninspired, barbaric, disciplined, practical, Protestant, 
Prussian — will always give us, working as we must by analogies, the key to 
understanding our own future. The break of destiny that we express by hyphening 
the words " Greeks = Romans" is occurring fur us also, separating that which is 
already fulfilled from that which is to come. Long ago we might and should have 
seen in the "Classical" world a development which is the complete counter- 



INTRODUCTION 17 

part of our own Western development, differing indeed from it in every detail 
of the surface but entirely similar as regards the inward power driving the 
great organism towards its end. We might have found the constant alter ego 
of our own actuality in establishing the correspondence, item by item, from 
the "Trojan War" and the Crusades, Homer and the Nibelungenlied, through 
Doric and Gothic, Dionysian movement and Renaissance, Polycletus and John 
Sebastian Bach, Athens and Paris, Aristotle and Kant, Alexander and Napoleon, 
to the world-city and the imperialism common to both Cultures. 

Unfortunately, this requires an interpretation of the picture of Classical his- 
tory very different from the incredibly one-sided, superficial, prejudiced, limited 
picture that we have in fact given to it. We have, in truth been only too con- 
scious of our near relation to the Classical Age, and only too prone in con- 
sequence to unconsidered assertion of it. Superficial similarity is a great snare, 
and our entire Classical study fell a victim to it as soon as it passed from the 
(admittedly masterly) ordering and critique of the discoveries to the inter- 
pretation of their spiritual meaning. That close inward relation in which we 
conceive ourselves to stand towards the Classical, and which leads us to think 
that we are its pupils and successors (whereas in reality we are simply its 
adorers), is a venerable prejudice which ought at last to be put aside. The 
whole religious-philosophical, art-historical and social-critical work of the 
19th Century has been necessary to enable us, not to understand JEschylus y Plato, 
Apollo and Dionysus, the Athenian state and Csesarism (which we are far indeed 
from doing), but to begin to realize, once and for all, how immeasurably alien 
and distant these things are from our inner selves — more alien, maybe, than 
Mexican gods and Indian architecture. 

Our views of the Grseco-Roman Culture have always swung between two 
extremes, and our standpoints have invariably been defined for us by the 
"ancient-mediseval-modern** scheme. One "group, public men before all else 
— economists, politicians, jurists — opine that "present-day mankind'* is 
making excellent prbgress, assess it and its performances at the very highest 
value and measure everything earlier by its standards. There is no modern 
party that has not weighed up Cleon, Marius, Themistocles, Catiline, the 
Gracchi, according to its own principles. On the other hand we have the 
group of artists, poets, philologists and philosophers. These feel themselves 
to be out of their element in the aforesaid present, and in consequence choose 
for themselves in this or that past epoch a standpoint that is in its way just 
as absolute and dogmatic from which to condemn "to-day.*' The one group 
looks upon Greece as a "not yct y ** the other upon modernity as a "nevermore.** 
Both labour under the obsession of a scheme of history which treats the two 
epochs as part of the same straight line. 

In this opposition it is the two souls of Faust that express themselves. The 
danger of the one group lies in a clever superficiality. In its hands there remains 



2.8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

finally, of all Classical Culture, of all reflections of the Classical soul, nothing 
but a bundle of social, economic, political and physiological facts, and the rest 
is treated as "secondary results," "reflexes," "attendant phenomena." In the 
books of this group we find not a hint of the mythical force of iEschylus's 
choruses, of the immense mother-earth struggle of the early sculpture, the 
Doric column, of the richness of the Apollo-cult, of the real depth of the Roman 
Emperor-worship. The other group, composed above all of belated roman- 
ticists — represented in recent times by the three Basel professors Bachofen, 
Burckhardt and Nietzsche — succumb to the usual dangers of ideology. They 
lose themselves in the clouds of an antiquity that is really no more than the 
image of their own sensibility in a philological mirror. They rest their case 
upon the only evidence which they consider worthy to support it, viz., the 
relics of the old literature, yet there never was a Culture so incompletely repre- 
sented for us by its great writers. 1 The first group, on the other hand, supports 
itself principally upon the humdrum material of law-sources, inscriptions and 
coins (which Burckhardt and Nietzsche, very much to their own loss, despised) 
and subordinates thereto, often with little or no sense of truth and fact, the 
surviving literature. Consequently, even in point of critical foundations, 
neither group takes the other seriously. I have never heard that Nietzsche and 
Mommsen had the smallest respect for each other. 

But neither group has attained to that higher method of treatment which 
reduces this opposition of criteria to ashes, although it was within their power 
to do so. In their self-limitation they paid the penalty for taking over the 
causality-principle from natural science. Unconsciously they arrived at a prag- 
matism that sketchily copied the world-picture drawn by physics and, instead 
of revealing, obscured and confused the quite other-natured forms of history. 
They had no better expedient for subjecting the mass of historical material to 
critical and normative examination than to consider one complex of phenomena 
as being primary and causative and the rest as being secondary, as being con- 
sequences or effects. And it was not only the matter-of-fact school that re- 
sorted to this method. The romanticists did likewise, for History had not 
revealed even to their dreaming gaze its specific logic; and yet they felt that 

1 This is conclusively proved by the selection that determined survival, which was governed 
not by mere chance but very definitely by a deliberate tendency. The Atticism of the Augustan Age, 
tired, sterile, pedantic, back-looking, conceived the hall-mark "classical" and allowed only a very 
small group of Greek works up to Plato to bear it. The rest, including the whole wealth of Hellenis- 
tic literature, was rejected and has been almost entirely lost. It is this pedagogue's anthology that 
has survived (almost in its entirety) and so fixed the imaginary picture of "Classical Antiquity" 
alike for the Renaissance Florentine and for Winckelmann, Holderlin, and even Nietzsche. 

[In this English translation, it should be mentioned, the word "Classical" has almost uni- 
versally been employed to translate the German ahtike, as, in the translator's judgment, no literal 
equivalent of the German word would convey the specific meaning attached to antike throughout 
the work, "antique," "ancient" and the like words having for us a much more general connota- 
tion. — TV.] 



INTRODUCTION zg 

there was an immanent necessity in it to determine this somehow, rather than 
turn their backs upon History in despair like Schopenhauer. 

XI 

Briefly, then, there are two ways of regarding die Classical — the material- 
istic and the ideological. By the former, it is asserted that the sinking of one 
scale-pan has its cause in the rising of the other, and it is shown that this 
occurs invariably (truly a striking theorem); and in this juxtaposing of cause 
and effect we naturally find the social and sexual, at all events the purely polit- 
ical, facts classed as causes and the religious, intellectual and (so far as the 
materialist tolerates them as facts at all) the artistic as effects. On the other 
hand, the ideologues show that the rising of one scale-pan follows from the 
sinking of the other, which they are able to prove of course with equal exacti- 
tude; this done, they lose themselves in cults, mysteries, customs, in the secrets 
of the strophe and the line, throwing scarcely a side-glance at the commonplace 
daily life — for them an unpleasant consequence of earthly imperfection. Each 
side, with its gaze fixed on causality, demonstrates that the other side either, 
cannot or will not understand the true linkages of things and each ends by 
calling the other blind, superficial, stupid, absurd or frivolous, oddities or 
Philistines. It shocks the ideologue if anyone deals with Hellenic finance- 
problems and instead of, for example, telling us the deep meanings of the 
Delphic oracle, describes the far-reaching money operations which the Oracle 
priests undertook with their accumulated treasures. The politician, on the 
other hand, has a superior smile for those who waste their enthusiasm on ritual 
formulas and the dress of Attic youths, instead of writing a book adorned with 
up-to-date catchwords about antique class-struggles. 

The one type is foreshadowed from the very outset in Petrarch; it created 
Florence and Weimar and the Western classicism. The other type appears in 
the middle of the 18th Century, along with the rise of civilized, 1 economic- 
megalopolitan 2 politics, and England is therefore its birthplace (Grote). At 
bottom, the opposition is between the conceptions of culture-man and those 
of civilization-man, and it is too deep, too essentially human, to allow the 
weaknesses of both standpoints alike to be seen or overcome. 

The materialist himself is on this point an idealist. He too, without wish- 
ing or desiring it, has made his views dependent upon his wishes. In fact all 
our finest minds without exception have bowed down reverently before the 
picture of the Classical, abdicating in this one instance alone their function of 
unrestricted criticism. The freedom and power of Classical research are always 

1 As will be seen later, the words zjvilisierte and Zivilisation possess in this work a special 
meaning. — Tr. 

2 English not possessing the adjective-forming freedom of German, we are compelled to coin a 
word for the rendering of gross stddtisch, an adjective not only frequent but of emphatic significance 
in the author's argument. — Tr. 



3 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

hindered, and its data obscured, by a certain almost religious awe. In all history 
there is no analogous case of one Culture making a passionate cult of the 
memory of another. Our devotion is evidenced yet again in the fact that since 
the Renaissance, a thousand years of history have been undervalued so that an 
ideal "Middle" Age may serve as a link between ourselves and antiquity. We 
Westerners have sacrificed on the Classical altar the purity and independence of 
our art, for we have not dared to create without a side-glance at the "sublime 
exemplar.' ' We have projected our own deepest spiritual needs and feelings 
on to the Classical picture. Some day a gifted psychologist will deal with 
this most fateful illusion and tell us the story of the " Classical* ' that we have 
so consistently reverenced since the days of Gothic. Few theses would be more 
helpful for the understanding of the Western soul from Otto III, the first victim 
of the South, to Nietzsche, the last. 

Goethe on his Italian tour speaks with enthusiasm of the buildings of 
Palladio, whose frigid and academic work we to-day regard very sceptically: 
but when he goes on to Pompeii he does not conceal his dissatisfaction in 
experiencing "a strange, half-unpleasant impression," and what he has to say 
on the temples of Passtum and Segesta — masterpieces of Hellenic art — is 
embarrassed and trivial. Palpably, when Classical antiquity in its full force 
met him face to face, he did not recognize it. It is the same with all others. 
Much that was Classical they chose not to see, and so they saved their inward 
image of the Classical — which was in reality the background of a life-ideal 
that they themselves had created and nourished with their heart's blood, a 
vessel filled with their own world-feeling, a phantom, an idol. The audacious 
descriptions of Aristophanes, Juvenal or Petronius of life in the Classical cities 
— the southern dirt and riff-raff, terrors and brutalities, pleasure-boys* and 
Phrynes, phallus worship and imperial orgies — excite the enthusiasm of the 
student and the dilettante, who find the same realities in the world-cities of 
to-day too lamentable and repulsive to face. "In the cities life is bad; there 
are too many of the lustful." — also sprach Zarathustra. They commend the 
state-sense of the Romans, but despise the man of to-day who permits himself 
any contact with public affairs. There is a type of scholar whose clarity of 
vision comes under some irresistible spell when it turns from a frock-coat to a 
toga, from a British football-ground to a Byzantine circus, from a transcon- 
tinental railway to a Roman road in the Alps, from a thirty-knot destroyer to 
a trireme, from Prussian bayonets to Roman spears — nowadays, even, from a 
modern engineer's Suez Canal to that of a Pharaoh. He would admit a steam- 
engine as a symbol of human passion and an expression of intellectual force if 
it were Hero of Alexandria who invented it, not otherwise. To such it seems 
blasphemous to talk of Roman central-heating or book-keeping in preference 
to the worship of the Great Mother of the Gods. 

But the other school sees nothing but these things. It thinks it exhausts the 



INTRODUCTION 31 

essence of this Culture, alien as it is to ours, by treating the Greeks as simply- 
equivalent, and it obtains its conclusions by means of simple factual substitu- 
tions, ignoring altogether the Classical soul. That there is not the slightest 
inward correlation between the things meant by "Republic," "freedom," 
"property" and the like then and there and the things meant by such words 
here and now, it has no notion whatever. It makes fun of the historians of 
the age of Goethe, who honestly expressed their own political ideals in classical 
history forms and revealed their own personal enthusiasms in vindications or 
condemnations of lay-figures named Lycurgus, Brutus, Cato, Cicero, Augustus 
— but it cannot itself write a chapter without reflecting the party opinion of 
its morning paper. 

It is, however, much the same whether the past is treated in the spirit of 
Don Quixote or in that of Sancho Panza. Neither way leads to the end. In 
sum, each school permits itself to bring into high relief that part of the 
Classical which best expresses its own views — Nietzsche the pre-Socratic 
Athens, the economists the Hellenistic period, the politicians Republican Rome, 
. poets the Imperial Age. 

Not that religious and artistic phenomena are more primitive than social 
and economic, any more than the reverse. For the man who in these things 
has won his unconditional freedom of outlook, beyond all personal interests 
whatsoever, there is no dependence, no priority, no relation of cause and effect, 
no differentiation of value or importance. That which assigns relative ranks 
amongst the individual detail-facts is simply the greater or less purity and force 
of their form-language, their symbolism, beyond all questions of good and evil, 
high and low, useful and ideal. 

XII 

Looked at in this way, the "Decline of the West" comprises nothing less 
than the problem of Civilisation. We have before us one of the fundamental 
questions of all higher history. What is Civilization, understood as the organic- 
logical sequel, fulfilment and finale of a culture? 

For every Culture has its own Civilization. In this work, for the first time 
the two words, hitherto used to express an indefinite, more or less ethical, 
distinction, are used in a periodic sense, to express a strict and necessary organic 
succession. The Civilization is the inevitable destiny of the Culture, and in this 
principle we obtain the viewpoint from which the deepest and gravest problems 
of historical morphology become capable of solution. Civilizations are the 
most external and artificial states of which a species of developed humanity is 
capable. They are a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing- 
becoming, death following life, rigidity following expansion, intellectual age 
and the stone-built, petrifying world-city following mother-earth and the 
spiritual childhood of Doric and Gothic. They are an end, irrevocable, yet 
bv inward necessity reached again and again. 



32 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

So, for the first time, we are enabled to understand the Romans as the 
successors of the Greeks, and light is projected into the deepest secrets of the 
late-Classical period. What, but this, can be the meaning of the fact — which 
can only be disputed by vain phrases — that the Romans were barbarians who 
did not precede but closed a great development? Unspiritual, unphilosophical, 
devoid of art, clannish to the point of brutality, aiming relentlessly at tangible 
successes, they stand between the Hellenic Culture and nothingness. An im- 
agination directed purely to practical objects — they had religious laws gov- 
erning godward relations as they had other laws governing human relations, 
but there was no specifically Roman saga of gods — was something which is 
not found at all in Athens. In a word, Greek soul — Roman intellect; and this 
antithesis is the differentia between Culture and Civilization. Nor is it only to 
the Classical that it applies. Again and again there appears this type of strong- 
minded, completely non-metaphysical man, and in the hands of this type lies 
the intellectual and material destiny of each and every "late" period. Such 
are the men who carried through the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Indian, the 
Chinese, the Roman Civilizations, and in such periods do Buddhism, Stoicism, 
Socialism ripen into definitive world-conceptions which enable a moribund 
humanity to be attacked and re-formed in its intimate structure. Pure Civiliza- 
tion, as a historical process, consists in a progressive taking-down of forms that 
have become inorganic or dead. 

The transition from Culture to Civilization was accomplished for the 
Classical world in the 4th, for the Western in the 19th Century. From these 
periods onward the great intellectual decisions take place, not as in the days of 
the Orpheus-movement or the Reformation in the "whole world" where not 
a hamlet is too small to be unimportant, but in three or four world-cities that 
have absorbed into themselves the whole content of History, while the old 
wide landscape of the Culture, become merely provincial, serves only to feed 
the cities with what remains of its higher mankind. 

World-city and province l — the two basic ideas of every civilization — bring 
up a wholly new form-problem of History, the very problem that we are living 
through to-day with hardly the remotest conception of its immensity. In place 
of a world, there is a city, a point, in which the whole life of broad regions is 
collecting while the rest dries up. In place of a type-true people, born of and 
grown on the soil, there is a new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid 
masses, the parasitical city dweller, traditionless, utterly matter-of-fact, reli- 
gionless, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous of the countryman and es- 
pecially that highest form of countryman, the country gentleman. This is a 
very great stride towards the inorganic, towards the end — what does it signify? 
France and England have already taken the step and Germany is beginning to 
do so. After Syracuse, Athens, and Alexandria comes Rome. After Madrid, 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 117 et seq. 



INTRODUCTION 33 

Paris, London come Berlin and New York. It is the destiny of whole regions 
that lie outside the radiation-circle of one of these cities — of old Crete and 
Macedon and to-day the Scandinavian North 1 — to become "provinces." 

Of old, the field on which the opposed conception of an epoch came to 
battle was some world-problem of a metaphysical, religious or dogmatic kind, 
and the battle was between the soil-genius of the countryman (noble, priest) 
and the "worldly " patrician genius of the famous old small towns of Doric or 
Gothic springtime. Of such a character were the conflicts over the Dionysus 
religion — as in the tyranny of Kleisthenes of Sikyon 2 — and those of the 
Reformation in the German free cities and the Huguenot wars. But just as 
these cities overcame the country-side (already it is a purely civic world-outlook 
that appears in even Parmenides and Descartes), so in turn the world-city over- 
came them. It is the common intellectual process of later periods such as the 
Ionic and the Baroque, and to-day — as in the Hellenistic age which at its 
outset saw the foundation of artificial, land-alien Alexandria — Culture-cities 
like Florence, Nurnberg, Salamanca, Bruges and Prag, have become provincial 
towns and fight inwardly a lost battle against the world-cities. The world- 
city means cosmopolitanism in place of "home/* 3 cold matter-of-fact in place 
of reverence for tradition and age, scientific irreligion as a fossil representative 
of the older religion of the heart, 4 4 society * * in place of the state, natural instead 
of hard-earned rights. It was in the conception of money as an inorganic and 
abstract magnitude, entirely disconnected from the notion of the fruitful earth 
and the primitive values, that the Romans had the advantage of the Greeks. 
Thenceforward any high ideal of life becomes largely a question of money. 
Unlike the Greek stoicism of Chrysippus, the Roman stoicism of Cato and 
Seneca presupposes a private income; 4 and, unlike that of the 18th Century, 
the social-ethical sentiment of the xoth, if it is to be realized at a higher level 
than that of professional (and lucrative) agitation, is a matter for millionaires. 
To the world-city belongs not a folk but a mass. Its uncomprehending hostility 
to all the traditions representative of the Culture (nobility, church, privileges, 
dynasties, convention in art and limits of knowledge in science), the keen and 
cold intelligence that confounds the wisdom of the peasant, the new-fashioned 
naturalism that in relation to all matters of sex and society goes back far beyond 
Rousseau and Socrates to quite primitive instincts and conditions, the reappear- 

1 One cannot fail to notice this in the development of Strindberg and especially in that of Ibsen, 
who was never quite at home in the civilized atmosphere of his problems. The motives of " Brand " 
and "Rosmersholm" are a wonderful mixture of innate provincialism and a theoretically-acquired 
megalopolitan outlook. Nora is the very type of the provincial derailed by reading. 

2 Who forbade the cult of the town*s hero Adrastos and the reading of the Homeric poems, with 
the object of cutting the Doric nobility from its spiritual roots (c. 560 b.c). 

8 A profound word which obtains its significance as soon as the barbarian becomes a culture-man 
and loses it again as soon as the civilization-man takes up the motto " Ubi bene, ibi pafria." 

4 Hence it was that the first to succumb to Christianity were the Romans who could not afford 
to be Stoics. See Vol. II, pp. 607 ct seq. 



34 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ance of the panem et circenses in the form of wage-disputes and football-grounds 
— all these things betoken the definite closing-down of the Culture and the 
opening of a quite new phase of human existence — anti-provincial, late, 
futureless, but quite inevitable. 

This is what has to be viewed, and viewed not with the eyes of the partisan, 
the ideologue, the up-to-date novelist, not from this or that "standpoint," but 
in a high, time-free perspective embracing whole millenniums of historical 
world-forms, if we are really to comprehend the great crisis of the present. 

To me it is a symbol of the first importance that in the Rome of Crassus — 
triumvir and all-powerful building-site speculator — the Roman people with 
its proud inscriptions, the people before whom Gauls, Greeks, Parthians, Syri- 
ans afar trembled, lived in appalling misery in the many-storied lodging-houses 
of dark suburbs, 1 accepting with indifference or even with a sort of sporting 
interest the consequences of the military expansion: that many famous old-noble 
families, descendants of the men who defeated the Celts and the Samnites, lost 
their ancestral homes through standing apart from the wild rush of speculation 
and were reduced to renting wretched apartments; that, while along the Appian 
Way there arose the splendid and still wonderful tombs of the financial mag- 
nates, the corpses of the people were thrown along with animal carcases and 
town refuse into a monstrous common grave — till in Augustus's time it was 
banked over for the avoidance of pestilence and so became the site of Maecenas's 
renowned park; that in depopulated Athens, which lived on visitors and on the 
bounty of rich foreigners, the mob of parvenu tourists from Rome gaped at the 
works of the Periclean age with as little understanding as the American globe- 
trotter in the Sistine Chapel at those of Michelangelo, every removable art- 
piece having ere this been taken away or bought at fancy prices to be replaced 
by the Roman buildings which grew up, colossal and arrogant, by the side of 
the low and modest structures of the old time. In such things — which it is 
the historian's business not to praise or to blame but to consider morphologi- 
cally — there lies, plain and immediate enough for one who has learnt to see, 
an idea. 

For it will become manifest that, from this moment on, all great conflicts 
of world-outlook, of politics, of art, of science, of feeling will be under the 
influence of this one opposition. What is the hall-mark of a politic of Civiliza- 
tion to-day, in contrast to a politic of Culture yesterday? It is, for the Classical 
rhetoric, and for the Western journalism, both serving that abstract which 
represents the power of Civilization — money? It is the money-spirit which 

1 In Rome and Byzantium, lodging-houses of six to ten stories (with street-widths of ten feet 
at most!) were built without any sort of official supervision, and frequently collapsed with all their 
inmates. A great part of the cives Romans, for whom partem et circenses constituted all existence, pos- 
sessed no more than a high-priced sleeping-berth in one of the swarming ant-hills called insula, 
(Pohlmann, Aus Altertum und Gegenwart, 1911, pp. 199 ff.) 

* See Vol. II, 577. 



INTRODUCTION 35 

penetrates unremarked the historical forms of the people's existence, often with- 
out destroying or even in the least disturbing these forms — the form of the 
Roman state, for instance, underwent very much less alteration between the 
elder Scipio and Augustus than is usually imagined. Though forms subsist, the 
great political parties nevertheless cease to be more than reputed centres of 
decision. The decisions in fact lie elsewhere. A small number of superior heads, 
whose names are very likely not the best-known, settle everything, while 
below them are the great mass of second-rate politicians — rhetors, tribunes, 
deputies, journalists — selected through a provincially-conceived franchise to 
keep alive the illusion of popular self-determination. And art? Philosophy? 
The ideals of a Platonic or those of a Kantian age had for the higher mankind 
concerned a general validity. But those of a Hellenistic age, or those of our 
own, are valid exclusively for the brain of the Megalopolitan. For the villager's 
or, generally, the nature-man's world-feeling our Socialism — like its near re- 
lation Darwinism (how utterly un-Goethian are the formulas of "struggle for 
existence" and "natural selection"!), like its other relative the woman-and- 
marriage problem of Ibsen, Strindberg, and Shaw, like the impressionistic 
tendencies of anarchic sensuousness and the whole bundle of modern longings, 
temptations and pains expressed in Baudelaire's verse and Wagner's music — 
are simply non-existent. The smaller the town, the more unmeaning it becomes 
to busy oneself with painting or with music of these kinds. To the Culture 
belong gymnastics, the tournament, the agon, and to the Civilization belongs 
Sport. This is the true distinction between the Hellenic palaestra and the 
Roman circus. 1 Art itself becomes a sport (hence the phrase "art for art's 
sake") to be played before a highly-intelligent audience of connoisseurs and 
buyers, whether the feat consist in mastering absurd instrumental tone-masses 
and taking harmonic fences, or in some tour de force of colouring. Then a new 
fact-philosophy appears, which can only spare a smile for metaphysical specula- 
tion,- and a new literature that is a necessity of life for the megalopolitan palate 
and nerves and both unintelligible and ugly to the provincials. Neither Alex- 
andrine poetry nor plein-air painting is anything to the "people." And, then 
as now, the phase of transition is marked by a series of scandals only to be found 
at such moments. The anger evoked in the Athenian populace by Euripides and 
by the "Revolutionary" painting of Apollodorus, for example, is repeated in 
the opposition to Wagner, Manet, Ibsen, and Nietzsche. 

It is possible to understand the Greeks without mentioning their economic 
relations; the Romans, on the other hand, can only be understood through these. 
Chaeronea and Leipzig were the last battles fought about an idea. In the First 
Punic War and in 1870 economic motives are no longer to be overlooked. Not 

1 German gymnastics, from the intensely provincial and natural forms imparted to it by Jahn, 
has since 1813 been carried by a very rapid development into the sport category. The difference be- 
tween a Berlin athletic ground on a big day and a Roman circus was even by 1914 very slight. 



36 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

till the Romans came with their practical energy was slave-holding given that 
big collective character which many students regard as the die-stamp of Clas- 
sical economics, legislation and way of life, and which in any event vastly 
lowered both the value and the inner worthiness of such free labour as continued 
to exist side by side with gang-labour. And it was not the Latin, but the 
Germanic peoples of the West and America who developed out of the steam- 
engine a big industry that transformed the face of the land. The relation of 
these phenomena to Stoicism and to Socialism is unmistakable. Not till the 
Roman Csesarism — foreshadowed by C. Flaminius, shaped first by Marius, 
handled by strong-minded, large-scale men of fact — did the Classical World 
learn the pre-eminence of money. Without this fact neither Csesar, nor "Rome" 
generally, is understandable. In every Greek is a Don Quixote, in every Roman 
a Sancho Panza factor, and these factors are dominants. 

XIII 

Considered in itself, the Roman world-dominion was a negative phenom- 
enon, being the result not of a surplus of energy on the one side — that the 
Romans had never had since Zama — but of a deficiency of resistance on the 
other. That the Romans did not conquer the world is certain; l they merely 
took possession of a booty that lay open to everyone. The Imperium Romanum 
came into existence not as the result of such an extremity of military and 
financial effort as had characterized the Punic Wars, but because the old East 
forwent all external self-determinations. We must not be deluded by the ap- 
pearance of brilliant military successes. With a few ill-trained, ill-led, and 
sullen legions, Lucullus and Pompey conquered whole realms — a phenomenon 
that in the period of the battle of Ipsus would have been unthinkable. The 
Mithradatic danger, serious enough for a system of material force which had 
never been put to any real test, would have been nothing to the conquerors of 
Hannibal. After Zama, the Romans never again either waged or were capable 
of waging a war against a great military Power. 2 Their classic wars were those 
against the Samnites, Pyrrhus and Carthage. Their grand hour was Cannae. 
To maintain the heroic posture for centuries on end is beyond the power of any 
people. The Prussian-German people have had three great moments (1813 , 1870 
and 1914), and that is more than others have had. 

Here, then, I lay it down that Imperialism, of which petrifacts such as the 
Egyptian empire, the Roman, the Chinese, the Indian may continue to exist 
for hundreds or thousands of years — dead bodies, amorphous and dispirited 
masses of men, scrap-material from a great history — is to be taken as the 
typical symbol of the passing away. Imperialism is Civilization unadulterated. 

1 See Vol. H, 5x9. 

2 The conquest of Gaul by Cassar was frankly a colonial, i.e., a one-sided, war; and the fact 
that it is the highest achievement in the later military history of Rome only shows that the well of 
real achievement was rapidly drying up. 



INTRODUCTION 37 

In this phenomenal form the destiny of the West is now irrevocably set. The 
energy of culture-man is directed inwards, that of civilization-man outwards. 
And thus I see in Cecil Rhodes the first man of a new age. He stands for the 
political style of a far-ranging, Western, Teutonic and especially German future, 
and his phrase "expansion is everything" is the Napoleonic reassertion of the 
indwelling tendency of every Civilization that has fully ripened — Roman, Arab 
or Chinese. It is not a matter of choice — it is not the conscious will of in- 
dividuals, or even that of whole classes or peoples that decides. The expansive 
tendency is a doom, something daemonic and immense, which grips, forces into 
service, and uses up the late mankind of the world-city stage, willy-nilly, aware 
or unaware. 1 Life is the process of effecting possibilities, and for the brain- 
man there are only extensive possibilities. 2 Hard as the half-developed Socialism 
of to-day is fighting against expansion, one day it will become arch-expansionist 
with all the vehemence of destiny. Here the form-language of politics, as the 
direct intellectual expression of a certain type of humanity, touches on a deep 
metaphysical problem — on the fact, affirmed in the grant of unconditional 
validity to the causality-principle, that the soul is the complement of its extension. 

When, between 480 and 2.30, 3 the Chinese group of states was tending 
towards imperialism, it was entirely futile to combat the principle of Imperi- 
alism (Lien-heng), practised in particular by the "Roman" state of Tsin 4 and 
theoritically represented by the philosopher Dschang Yi, by ideas of a League 
of Nations (Hoh-tsung) largely derived from Wang Hii, a profound sceptic who 
had no illusions as to the men or the political possibilities of this "late" 
period. Both sides opposed the anti-political idealism of Lao-tse, but as be- 
tween themselves it was Lien-heng and not Hoh-tsung which swam with the 
natural current of expansive Civilization. 5 

Rhodes is to be regarded as the first precursor of a Western type of Csesars, 
whose day is to come though yet distant. He stands midway between Napoleon 
and the force-men of the next centuries, just as Flaminius, who from 2.32. b.c. 
onward pressed the Romans to undertake the subjugation of Cisalpine Gaul 
and so initiated the policy of colonial expansion, stands between Alexander and 
Csesar. Strictly speaking, Flaminius was a private person — for his real power 
was of a kind not embodied in any constitutional office — who exercised a 
dominant influence in the state at a time when the state-idea was giving way to 
the pressure of economic factors. So far as Rome is concerned, he was the arche- 

1 The modern Germans are a conspicuous example of a people that has become expansive without 
knowing it or willing it. They were already in that state while they still believed themselves to be 
the people of Goethe. Even Bismarck, the founder of the new age, never had the slightest idea of it, 
and believed himself to have reached the conclusion of a political process (cf. Vol. II, 52.9). 

2 This is probably the meaning of Napoleon's significant words to Goethe: "What have we 
to-day to do with destiny? Policy is destiny." 

8 Corresponding to the 300-50 b.c phase of the Classical world. 
4 Which in the end gave its name to the Empire (Tsin = China). 
6 See Vol. II, 52.1-539- 



38 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

type of opposition Csesarism; with him there came to an end the idea of state- 
service and there began the "will to power" which ignored traditions and 
reckoned only with forces. Alexander and Napoleon were romantics; though 
they stood on the threshold of Civilization and in its cold clear air, the one 
fancied himself an Achilles and the other read Werther. Csesar, on the contrary, 
was a pure man of fact gifted with immense understanding. 

But even for Rhodes political success means territorial and financial success, 
and only that. Of this Roman-ness within himself he was fully aware. But 
Western Civilization has not yet taken shape in such strength and purity as 
this. It was only before his maps that he could fall into a sort of poetic trance, 
this son of the parsonage who, sent out to South Africa without means, made a 
gigantic fortune and employed it as the engine of political aims. His idea of 
a trans-African railway from the Cape to Cairo, his project of a South African 
empire, his intellectual hold on the hard metal souls of the mining magnates 
whose wealth he forced into the service of his schemes, his capital Bulawayo, 
royally planned as a future Residence by a statesman who was all-powerful yet 
stood in no definite relation to the State, his wars, his diplomatic deals, his 
road-systems, his syndicates, his armies, his conception of the "great duty to 
civilization" of the man of brain — all this, broad and imposing, is the pre- 
lude of a future which is still in store for us and with which the history of 
West-European mankind will be definitely closed. 

He who does not understand that this outcome is obligatory and insuscep- 
tible of modification, that our choice is between willing this and willing nothing 
at all, between cleaving to this destiny or despairing of the future and of life 
itself; he who cannot feel that there is grandeur also in the realizations of 
powerful intelligences, in the energy and discipline of metal-hard natures, in 
battles fought with the coldest and most abstract means; he who is obsessed 
with the idealism of a provincial and would pursue the ways of life of past 
ages — must forgo all desire to comprehend history, to live through history or 
to make history. 

Thus regarded, the Imperium Romanum appears no longer as an isolated 
phenomenon, but as the normal product of a Strict and energetic, megalopolitan, 
predominantly practical spirituality, as typical of a final and irreversible con- 
dition which has occurred often enough though it has only been identified 
as such in this instance. 

Let it be realized, then: 

That the secret of historical form does not lie on the surface, that it cannot 
be grasped by means of similarities of costume and setting, and that in the 
history of men as in that of animals and plants there occur phenomena showing 
deceptive similarity but inwardly without any connexion — e.g., Charlemagne 
and Haroun-al-Raschid, Alexander and Csesar, the German wars upon Rome 
and the Mongol onslaughts upon West Europe — and other phenomena of 



INTRODUCTION 39 

extreme outward dissimilarity but of identical import — e.g., Trajan and 
Rameses II, the Bourbons and the Attic D[emos, Mohammed and Pythagoras. 

That the 19th and 2.0th centuries, hitherto looked on as the highest point 
of an ascending straight line of world-history, are in reality a stage of life 
which may be observed in every Culture that has ripened to its limit — a stage 
of life characterized not by Socialists, Impressionists, electric railways, tor- 
pedoes and differential equations (for these are only body-constituents of the 
time), but by a civilized spirituality which possesses not only these but also 
quite other creative possibilities. 

That, as our own time represents a transitional phase which occurs with 
certainty under particular conditions, there are perfectly well-defined states 
(such as have occurred more than once in the history of the past) later than the 
present-day state of West Europe, and therefore that 

The future of the West is not a limitless tending upwards and onwards for 
all time towards our present ideals, but a single phenomenon of history, strictly 
limited and defined as to form and duration, which covers a few centuries and 
can be viewed and, in essentials, calculated from available precedents. 

XIV 

This high plane of contemplation once attained, the rest is easy. To this 
single idea one can refer, and by it one can solve, without straining or forcing, 
all those separate problems of religion, art-history, epistemology, ethics, poli- 
tics, economics with which the modern intellect has so passionately — and so 
vainly — busied itself for decades. 

This idea is one of those truths that have only to be expressed with full 
clarity to become indisputable. It is one of the inward necessities of the West- 
ern Culture and of its world-feeling. It is capable of entirely transforming the 
world-outlook of one who fully understands it, i.e., makes it intimately his 
own. It immensely deepens the world-picture natural and necessary to us in 
that, already trained to regard world-historical evolution as an organic unit 
seen backwards from our standpoint in the present, we are enabled by its aid 
to follow the broad lines into the future — a privilege of dream-calculation 
till now permitted only to the physicist. It is, I repeat, in effect the substitution 
of a Copernican for a Ptolemaic aspect of history, that is, an immeasurable 
widening of horizon. 

Up to now everyone has been at liberty to hope what he pleased about the 
future. Where there are no facts, sentiment rules. But henceforward it will 
be every man's business to inform himself of what can happen and therefore of 
what with the unalterable necessity of destiny and irrespective of personal 
ideals, hopes or desires, will happen. When we use the risky word "freedom" 
we shall mean freedom to do, not this or that, but the necessary or nothing. 
The feeling that this is " just as it should be" is the hall-mark of the man of 



4 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

fact. To lament it and blame it is not to alter it. To birth belongs death, to 
youth age, to life generally its form and its allotted span. The present is a 
civilized, emphatically not a cultured time, and ipso facto a great number of 
life-capacities fall out as impossible. This may be deplorable, and may be and 
will be deplored in pessimist philosophy and poetry, but it is not in our power 
to make otherwise. It will not be — already it is not — permissible to defy- 
clear historical experience and to expect, merely because we hope, that this 
will spring or that will flourish. 

It will no doubt be objected that such a world-outlook, which in giving 
this certainty as to the outlines and tendency of the future cuts off all far- 
reaching hopes, would be unhealthy for all and fatal for many, once it ceased 
to be a mere theory and was adopted as a practical scheme of life by the group 
of personalities effectively moulding the future. 

Such is not my opinion. We are civilized, not Gothic or Rococo, people; 
we have to reckon with the hard cold facts of a late life, to which the parallel 
is to be found not in Pericles's Athens but in Csesar's Rome. Of great painting 
or great music there can no longer be, for Western people, any question. Their 
architectural possibilities have been exhausted these hundred years. Only ex- 
tensive possibilities are left to them. Yet, for a sound and vigorous generation 
that is filled with unlimited hopes, I fail to see that it is any disadvantage to 
discover betimes that some of these hopes must come to nothing. And if the 
hopes thus doomed should be those most dear, well, a man who is worth any- 
thing will not be dismayed. It is true that the issue may be a tragic one for 
some individuals who in their decisive years are overpowered by the conviction 
that in the spheres of architecture, drama, painting, there is nothing left for 
them to conquer. What matter if they do go under! It has been the convention 
hitherto to admit no limits of any sort in these matters, and to believe that 
each period had its own task to do in each sphere. Tasks therefore were found 
by hook or by crook, leaving it to be settled posthumously whether or not 
the artist's faith was justified and his life-work necessary. Now, nobody but 
a pure romantic would take this way out. Such a pride is not the pride of a 
Roman. What are we to think of the individual who, standing before an ex- 
hausted quarry, would rather be told that a new vein will be struck to-morrow 
— the bait offered by the radically false and mannerized art of the moment — 
than be shown a rich and virgin clay-bed near by? The lesson, I think, would 
be of benefit to the coming generations, as showing them what is possible — 
and therefore necessary — and what is excluded from the inward potentialities 
of their time. Hitherto an incredible total of intellect and power has been 
squandered in false directions. The West-European, however historically he 
may think and feel, is at a certain stage of life invariably uncertain of his own 
direction; he gropes and feels his way and, if unlucky in environment, he loses 
it. But now atjast the work of centuries enables him to view the disposition 



INTRODUCTION 41 

of his own life in relation to the general culture-scheme and to test his own 
powers and purposes. And I can only hope that men of the new generation 
may be moved by this book to devote themselves to technics instead of lyrics, 
the sea instead of the paint-brush, and politics instead of epistemology. Better 
they could not do. 

xv 

It still remains to consider the relation of a morphology of world-history 
to Philosophy. All genuine historical work is philosophy, unless it is mere 
ant-industry. But the operations of the systematic philosopher are subject to 
constant and serious error through his assuming the permanence of his results. 
He overlooks the fact that every thought lives in a historical world and is 
therefore involved in the common destiny of mortality. He supposes that 
higher thought possesses an everlasting and unalterable objectiveness (Gegen- 
stand), that the great questions of all epochs are identical, and that therefore 
they are capable in the last analysis of unique answers. 

But question and answer are here one, and the great questions are made 
great by the very fact that unequivocal answers to them are so passionately 
demanded, so that it is as life-symbols only that they possess significance. 
There are no eternal truths. Every philosophy is the expression of its own 
and only its own time, and — if by philosophy we mean effective philosophy 
and not academic triflings about judgment-forms, sense-categories and the like 
— no two ages possess the same philosophic intentions. The difference is not 
between perishable and imperishable doctrines but between doctrines which live 
their day and doctrines which never live at all. The immortality of thoughts- 
become is an illusion — the essential is, what kind of man comes to expression 
in them. The greater the man, the truer the philosophy, with the inward 
truth that in a great work of art transcends all proof of its several elements 
or even of their compatibility with one another. At highest, the philosophy 
may absorb the entire content of an epoch, realize it within itself and then, 
embodying it in some grand form or personality, pass it on to be developed 
further and further. The scientific dress or the mark of learning adopted by a 
philosophy is here unimportant. Nothing is simpler than to make good poverty 
of ideas by founding a system, and even a good idea has little value when 
enunciated by a solemn ass. Only its necessity to life decides the eminence of 
a doctrine. 

For me, therefore, the test of value to be applied to a thinker is his eye for 
the great facts of his own time. Only this can settle whether he is merely a 
clever architect of systems and principles, versed in definitions and analyses, 
or whether it is the very soul of his time that speaks in his works and his in- 
tuitions. A philosopher who cannot grasp and command actuality as well will 
never be of the first rank. The Pre-Socratics were merchants and politicians 



4z THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

en grand. The desire to put his political ideas into practice in Syracuse 
nearly cost Plato his life, and it was the same Plato who discovered the set 
of geometrical theorems that enabled Euclid to build up the Classical system of 
mathematics. Pascal — whom Nietzsche knows only as the "broken Chris- 
tian" — Descartes, Leibniz were the first mathematicians and technicians of 
their time. 

The great "Pre-Socratics" of China from Kwan-tsi (about 670) to Confu- 
cius (550-478) were statesmen, regents, lawgivers like Pythagoras and P«r- 
menides, like Hobbes and Leibniz. With Lao-tsze — the opponent of all state 
authority and high politics and the enthusiast of small peaceful communities 
— unworldliness and deed-shyness first appear, heralds of lecture-room and 
study philosophy. But Lao-tsze was in his time, the ancien rigime of China, an 
exception in the midst of sturdy philosophers for whom epistemology meant 
the knowledge of the important relations of actual life. 

And herein, I think, all the philosophers of the newest age are open to a 
serious criticism. What they do not possess is real standing in actual life. Not 
one of them has intervened effectively, either in higher politics, in the develop- 
ment of modern technics, in matters of communication, in economics, or in 
any other big actuality, with a single act or a single compelling idea. Not one 
of them counts in mathematics, in physics, in the science of government, even 
to the extent that Kant counted. Let us glance at other times. Confucius was 
several times a minister. Pythagoras was the organizer of an important politi- 
cal movement l akin to the Cromwellian, the significance of which is even now 
far underestimated by Classical researchers. Goethe, besides being a model 
executive minister — though lacking, alas! the operative sphere of a great 
state — was interested in the Suez and Panama canals (the dates of which he 
foresaw with accuracy) and their effects on the economy of the world, and he 
busied himself again and again with the question of American economic life 
and its reactions on the Old World, and with that of the dawning era of 
machine-industry. Hobbes was one of the originators of the great plan of 
winning South America for England, and although in execution the plan went 
no further than the occupation of Jamaica, he has the glory of being one of the 
founders of the British Colonial Empire. Leibniz, without doubt the greatest 
intellect in Western philosophy, the founder of the differential calculus and the 
analysis situs, conceived or co-operated in a number of major political schemes, 
one of which was to relieve Germany by drawing the attention of Louis XIV 
to the importance of Egypt as a factor in French world-policy. The ideas of 
the memorandum on this subject that he drew up for the Grand Monarch were 
so far in advance of their time (1671) that it has been thought that Napoleon 
made use of them for his Eastern venture. Even thus early, Leibniz laid down 
the principle that Napoleon grasped more and more clearly after Wagram, viz., 

1 Sec Vol. H, 373 ff. 



INTRODUCTION 43 

that acquisitions on the Rhine and in Belgium would not permanently better 
the position of France and that the neck of Suez would one day be the key of 
world-dominance. Doubtless the King was not equal to these deep political 
and strategic conceptions of the Philosopher. 

Turning from men of this mould to the 4 ' philosophers ' * of to-day, one is dis- 
mayed and shamed. How poor their personalities, how commonplace their 
political and practical outlook! Why is it that the mere idea of calling upon 
one of them to prove his intellectual eminence in government, diplomacy, 
large-scale organization, or direction of any big colonial, commercial or trans- 
port concern is enough to evoke our pity? And this insufficiency indicates, not 
that they possess inwardness, but simply that they lack weight. I look round 
in vain for an instance in which a modern "philosopher" has made a name by 
even one deep or far-seeing pronouncement on an important question of the day. 
I see nothing but provincial opinions of the same kind as anyone else's. When- 
ever I take up a work by a modern thinker, I find myself asking: has he any 
idea whatever of the actualities of world-politics, world-city problems, capi- 
talism, the future of the state, the relation of technics to the course of civiliza- 
tion, Russia, Science? Goethe would have understood all this and revelled in 
it, but there is not one living philosopher capable of taking it in. This sense of 
actualities is of course not the same thing as the content of a philosophy but, I 
repeat, it is an infallible symptom of its inward necessity, its fruitfulness and 
its symbolic importance. 

We must allow ourselves no illusions as to the gravity of this negative result. 
It is palpable that we have lost sight of the final significance of effective philos- 
ophy. We confuse philosophy with preaching, with agitation, with novel- 
writing, with lecture-room jargon. We have descended from the perspective 
of the bird to that of the frog. It has come to this, that the very -possibility of a 
real philosophy of to-day and to-morrow is in question. If not, it were far 
better to become a colonist or an engineer, to do something, no matter what, 
that is true and real, than to chew over once more the old dried-up themes under 
cover of an alleged "new wave of philosophic thought" — far better to con- 
struct an aero-engine than a new theory of apperception that is not wanted. 
Truly it is a poor life's work to restate once more, in slightly different terms, 
views of a hundred predecessors on the Will or on psycho-physical parallelism. 
This may be a profession, but a philosophy it emphatically is not. A doctrine 
that does not attack and affect the life of the period in its inmost depths is no 
doctrine and had better not be taught. And what was possible even yesterday 
is, to-day, at least not indispensable. 

To me, the depths and refinement of mathematical and physical theories are 
a joy; by comparison, the aesthete and the physiologist are fiimblers. I would 
sooner have the fine mind-begotten forms of a fast steamer, a steel structure, a 
precision-lathe, the subtlety and elegance of many chemical and optical proc- 



-/ 



44 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

esses, than all the pickings and stealings of present-day "arts and crafts," 
architecture and painting included. I prefer one Roman aqueduct to all Roman 
temples and statues. I love the Colosseum and the giant vault of the Palatine, 
for they display for me to-day in the brown massiveness of their brick construc- 
tion the real Rome and the grand practical sense of her engineers, but it is a 
matter of indifference to me whether the empty and pretentious marblery of the 
Csesars — their rows of statuary, their friezes, their overloaded architraves — 
is preserved or not. Glance at some reconstruction of the Imperial Fora — do 
we not find them the true counterpart of a modern International Exhibition, 
obtrusive, bulky, empty, a boasting in materials and dimensions wholly alien 
to Periclean Greece and the Rococo alike, but exactly paralleled in the Egyptian 
modernism that is displayed in the ruins of Rameses II (1300 b.c.) at Luxor and 
Karnak? It was not for nothing that the genuine Roman despised the Graculus 
histrioy the kind of " artist" and the kind of "philosopher" to be found on the 
soil of Roman Civilization. The time for art and philosophy had passed; they 
were exhausted, used up, superfluous, and his instinct for the realities of life 
told him so. One Roman law weighed more than all the lyrics and school- 
metaphysics of the time together. And I maintain that to-day many an in- 
ventor, many a diplomat, many a financier is a sounder philosopher than all 
those who practise the dull craft of experimental psychology. This is a situa- 
tion which regularly repeats itself at a certain historical level. It would have 
been absurd in a Roman of intellectual eminence, who might as Consul or 
Prsetor lead armies, organize provinces, build cities and roads, or even be the 
Princeps in Rome, to want to hatch out some new variant of. post-Platonic 
school philosophy at Athens or Rhodes. Consequently no one did so. It was 
not in harmony with the tendency of the age, and therefore it only attracted 
third-class men of the kind that always advances as far as the Zeitgeist of the 
day before yesterday. It is a very grave question whether this stage has or has 
not set in for us already. 

A century of purely extensive effectiveness, excluding big artistic and 
metaphysical production — let us say frankly an irreligious time which coin- 
cides exactly with the idea of the world-city — is a time of decline. True. 
But we have not chosen this time. We cannot help it if we are born as men of 
the early winter of full Civilization, instead of on the golden summit of a ripe 
Culture, in a Phidias or a Mozart time. Everything depends on our seeing otir 
own position, our destiny, clearly, on our realizing that though we may lie to 
ourselves about it we cannot evade it. He who does not acknowledge this in 
his heart, ceases to be counted among the men of his generation, and remains 
either a simpleton, a charlatan, or a pedant. 

Therefore, in approaching a problem of the present, one must begin by asking 
one's self — a question answered in advance by instinct in the case of the genuine 
adept — what to-day is possible and what he must forbid himself. Only a very 



INTRODUCTION 45 

few of the problems of metaphysics are, so to say, allocated for solution to any 
epoch of thought. Even thus soon, a whole world separates Nietzsche's time, 
in which a last trace of romanticism was still operative, from our own, which 
has shed every vestige of it. 

Systematic philosophy closes with the end of the 18th Century. Kant put 
its utmost possibilities in forms both grand in themselves and — as a rule — 
final for the Western soul. He is followed, as Plato and Aristotle were followed, 
by a specifically megalopolitan philosophy that was not speculative but prac- 
tical, irreligious, social-ethical. This philosophy — paralleled in the Chinese 
civilization by the schools of the "Epicurean" Yang-chu, the "Socialist" 
Mo-ti, the "Pessimist" Chuang-tsii, the "Positivist" Mencius, and in the 
Classical by the Cynics, the Cyrenaics, the Stoics and the Epicureans — begins 
in the West with Schopenhauer, who is the first to make the Will to life ("crea- 
tive life-force") the centre of gravity of his thought, although the deeper ten- 
dency of his doctrine is obscured by his having, under the influence of a great 
tradition, maintained the obsolete distinctions of phenomena and things-in- 
themselves and suchlike. It is the same creative will-to-life that was Schopen- 
hauer-wise denied in 4 4 Tristan ' ' and Darwin-wise asserted in 4 4 Siegfried ' ' ; that 
was brilliantly and theatrically formulated by Nietzsche in "Zarathustra"; 
that led the Hegelian Marx to an economic and the Malthusian Darwin to a 
biological hypothesis which together have subtly transformed the world- 
outlook of the Western megalopolis; and that produced a homogeneous series 
of tragedy-conceptions extending from Hebbel's 4 "Judith" to Ibsen's " Epi- 
logue." It has embraced, therefore, all the possibilities of a true philosophy 
— and at the same time it has exhausted them. 

Systematic philosophy, then, lies immensely far behind us, and ethical has 
been wound up. But a third -possibility, corresponding to the Classical Scepticism, 
still remains to the soul-world of the present-day West, and it can be brought to 
light by the hitherto unknown methods of historical morphology. That which 
is a possibility is a necessity. The Classical scepticism is ahistoric, it doubts 
by denying outright. But that of the West, if it is an inward necessity, a symbol 
of the autumn of our spirituality, is obliged to be historical through and 
through. Its solutions are got by treating everything as relative, as a historical 
phenomenon, and its procedure is psychological. Whereas the Sceptic philos- 
ophy arose within Hellenism as the negation of philosophy — declaring 
philosophy to be purposeless — we, on the contrary, regard the history of 
philosophy as, in the last resort, philosophy's gravest theme. This is " skepsis," 
in the true sense, for whereas the Greek is led to renounce absolute standpoints 
by contempt for the intellectual past, we arc led to do so by comprehension of 
that past as an organism. 

In this work it will be our task to sketch out this unphilosophical philos- 
ophy — the last that West Europe will know. Scepticism is the expression of 



46 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

a pure Civilisation; and it dissipates the world-picture of the Culture that has 
gone before. For us, its success will lie in resolving all the older problems into 
one, the genetic. The conviction that what is also has become, that the natural 
and cognizable is rooted in the historic, that the World as the actual is founded 
on an Ego as the potential actualized, that the "when" and the "how long" 
hold as deep a secret as the "what," leads directly to the fact that everything, 
whatever else it may be, must at any rate be the expression of something living. 
Cognitions and judgments too are acts of living men. The thinkers of the past 
conceived external actuality as produced by cognition and motiving ethical 
judgments, but to the thought of the future they are above all expressions 
and symbols. The Morphology of world-history becomes inevitably a universal 
symbolism. 

With that, the claim of higher thought to possess general and eternal truths 
falls to the ground. Truths are truths only in relation to a particular mankind. 
Thus, my own philosophy is able to express and reflect only the Western (as 
distinct from the Classical, Indian, or other) soul, and that soul only in its 
present civilized phase by which its conception of the world, its practical range 
and its sphere of effect are specified. 

XVI 

In concluding this Introduction, I may be permitted to add a personal note. 
In 191 1, 1 proposed to myself to put together some broad considerations on the 
political phenomena of the day and their possible developments. At that time 
the World-War appeared to me both as imminent and also as the inevitable 
outward manifestation of the historical crisis, and my endeavour was to com- 
prehend it from an examination of the spirit of the preceding centuries — not 
years. In the course of this originally small task, 1 the conviction forced itself 
on me that for an effective understanding of the epoch the area to be taken into 
the foundation-plan must be very greatly enlarged, and that in an investigation 
of this sort, if the results were to be fundamentally conclusive and necessary 
results, it was impossible to restrict one's self to a single epoch and its political 
actualities, or to confine one's self to a pragmatical framework, or even to do 
without purely metaphysical and highly transcendental methods of treatment. 
It became evident that a political problem could not be comprehended by means 
of politics themselves and that, frequently, important factors at work in the 
depths could only be grasped through their artistic manifestations or even 
distantly seen in the form of scientific or purely philosophical ideas. Even the 
politico-social analysis of the last decades of the 19th century — a period of 
tense quiet between two immense and outstanding events: the one which, ex- 
pressed in the Revolution and Napoleon, had fixed the picture of West-European 
actuality for a century and another of at least equal significance that wa# 

1 The work referred to is embodied in Vol. II (pp. 5x1 et scq., 562. et seq., 631 et seq.). 



INTRODUCTION 47 

visibly and ever more rapidly approaching — was found in the last resort to be 
impossible without bringing in all the great problems of Being in all their 
aspects. For, in the historical as in the natural world-picture, there is found 
nothing, however small, that does not embody in itself the entire sum of 
fundamental tendencies. And thus the original theme came to be immensely 
widened. A vast number of unexpected (and in the main entirely novel) ques- 
tions and interrelations presented themselves. And finally it became perfectly 
clear that no single fragment of history could be thoroughly illuminated unless 
and until the secret of world-history itself, to wit the story of higher mankind 
as an organism of regular structure, had been cleared up. And hitherto this has 
not been done, even in the least degree. 

From this moment on, relations and connexions — previously often suspected, 
sometimes touched on but never comprehended — presented themselves in ever- 
increasing volume. The forms of the arts linked themselves to the forms of war 
and state-policy. Deep relations were revealed between political and mathe- 
matical aspects of the same Culture, between religious and technical concep- 
tions, between mathematics, music and sculpture, between economics and 
cognition-forms. Clearly and unmistakably there appeared the fundamental 
dependence of the most modern physical and chemical theories on the mytho- 
logical concepts of our Germanic ancestors, the style-congruence of tragedy 
and power-technics and up-to-date finance, and the fact (bizarre at first but soon 
self-evident) that oil-painting perspective, printing, the credit system, long- 
range weapons, and contrapuntal music in one case, and the nude statue, the 
city-state and coin-currency (discovered by the Greeks) in another were identi- 
cal expressions of one and the same spiritual principle. And, beyond and above 
all, there stood out the fact that these great groups of morphological relations, each 
one of which symbolically represents a particular sort of mankind in the whole 
picture of world-history, are strictly symmetrical in structure. It is this 
perspective that first opens out for us the true style of history. Belonging 
itself as symbol and expression to one time and therefore inwardly possible 
and necessary only for present-day Western man, it can but be compared — 
distantly — to certain ideas of ultra-modern mathematics in the domain of 
the Theory of Groups. These were thoughts that had occupied me for many 
years, though dark and undefined until enabled by this method to emerge in 
tangible form. 

Thereafter I saw the present — the approaching World-War — in a quite 
other light. It was no longer a momentary constellation of casual facts due to 
national sentiments, personal influences, or economic tendencies endowed with 
an appearance of unity and necessity by some historian's scheme of political of 
social cause-and-effect, but the type of a historical change of phase occurring 
within a great historical organism of definable compass at the point preor- 
dained for it hundreds of years ago. The mark of the great crisis is its innumer- 



48 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

able passionate questionings and probings. In our own case there were books 
and ideas by the thousand; but, scattered, disconnected, limited by the horizons 
of specialisms as they were, they incited, depressed and confounded but could 
not free. Hence, though these questions are seen, their identity is missed. 
Consider those art-problems that (though never comprehended in their depths) 
were evinced in the disputes between form and content, line and space, drawing 
and colour, in the notion of style, in the idea of Impressionism and the music 
of Wagner. Consider the decline of art and the failing authority of science; 
the grave problems arising out of the victory of the megalopolis over the 
country-side, such as childlessness and land-depopulation; the place in society 
of a fluctuating Fourth Estate; the crisis in materialism, in Socialism, in par- 
liamentary government; the position of the individual vis-a-vis the State; the 
problem of private property with its pendant the problem of marriage. Consider 
at the same time one fact taken from what is apparently an entirely different 
field, the voluminous work that was being done in the domain of folk-psy- 
chology on the origins of myths, arts, religions and thought — and done, more- 
over, no longer from an ideal but from a strictly morphological standpoint. It 
is my belief that every one of these questions was really aimed in the same 
direction as every other, viz., towards that one Riddle of History that had never 
yet emerged with sufficient distinctness in the human consciousness. The tasks 
before men were not, as supposed, infinitely numerous — they were one and 
the same task. Everyone had an inkling that this was so, but no one from his 
own narrow standpoint had seen the single and comprehensive solution. And 
yet it had been in the air since Nietzsche, and Nietzsche himself had gripped all 
the decisive problems although, being a romantic, he had not dared to look 
strict reality in the face. 

But herein precisely lies the inward necessity of the stock-taking doctrine, so 
to call it. It had to come, and it could only come at this time. Our scepticism 
is not an attack upon, but rather the verification of, our stock of thoughts and 
works. It confirms all that has been sought and achieved for generations past, 
in that it integrates all the truly living tendencies which it finds in the special 
spheres, no matter what their aim may be. 

Above all, there discovered itself the opposition of History and Nature through 
which alone it is possible to grasp the essence of the former. As I have 
already said, man as an element and representative of the World is a member, 
not only of nature, but also of history — which is a second Cosmos different in 
structure and complexion, entirely neglected by Metaphysics in favour of the 
first. I was originally brought to reflect on this fundamental question of our 
world-consciousness through noticing how present-day historians as they 
fumble round tangible events, things-become, believe themselves to have al- 
ready grasped History, the happening, the becoming itself. This is a prejudice 
common to all who proceed by reason and cognition, as against intuitive per- 



INTRODUCTION 49 

ccption. 1 And it had long ago been a source of perplexity to the great Eleatics 
with their doctrine that through cognition there could be no becoming, but 
only a being (or having-become). In other words, History was seen as Nature 
(in the objective sense of the physicist) and treated accordingly, and it is to 
this that we must ascribe the baneful mistake of applying the principles of 
causality, of law, of system — that is, the structure of rigid being — to the 
picture of happenings. It was assumed that a human culture existed just as 
electricity or gravitation existed, and that it was capable of analysis in much 
the same way as these. The habits of the scientific researcher were eagerly taken 
as a model, and if, from time to time, some student asked what Gothic, or 
Islam, or the Polis was, no one inquired why such symbols of something living 
inevitably appeared just then, and there, in that form, and for that space of time. 
Historians were content, whenever they met one of the innumerable similari- 
ties between widely discrete historical phenomena, simply to register it, adding 
some clever remarks as to the marvels of coincidence, dubbing Rhodes the 
44 Venice of Antiquity" and Napoleon the 44 modern Alexander,' ' or the like; 
yet it was just these cases, in which the destiny-problem came to the fore as the 
true problem of history (viz., the problem of time), that needed to be treated 
with all possible seriousness and scientifically regulated physiognomic in order 
to find out what strangely-constituted necessity, so completely alien to the 
causal, was at work. That every phenomenon ipso facto propounds a meta- 
physical riddle, that the time of its occurrence is never irrelevant; that it still 
remained to be discovered what kind of a living interdependence (apart from the 
inorganic, natural-law interdependence) subsists within the world-picture, 
which radiates from nothing less than the whole man and not merely (as Kant 
thought) from the cognizing part of him; that a phenomenon is not only a fact 
for the understanding but also an expression of the spiritual, not only an object 
but a symbol as well, be it one of the highest creations of religion or art or a 
mere trifle of everyday life — all this was, philosophically, something new. 
And thus in the end I came to see the solution clearly before me in immense 

1 The philosophy of this book I owe to the philosophy of Goethe, which is practically unknown 
to-day, and also (but in a far less degree) to that of Nietzsche. The position of Goethe in West- 
European metaphysics is still not understood in the least; when philosophy is being discussed he is 
not even named. For unfortunately he did not set down his doctrines in a rigid system, and so the 
systematic philosophy has overlooked him. Nevertheless he was a philosopher. His place vis-A-vis 
Kant is the same as that of Plato — who similarly eludes the would-be-systematizer — vis-^-vis 
Aristotle. Plato and Goethe stand for the philosophy of Becoming, Aristotle and Kant the philos- 
ophy of Being. Here we have intuition opposed to analysis. Something that it is practically im- 
possible to convey by the methods of reason is found in individual sayings and poems of Goethe, e.g., 
in the Orphische Urworte, and stanzas like " Wenn im Unendlichen" and "Sagt es Niemand," which 
must be regarded as the expression of a perfectly definite metaphysical doctrine. I would not have one 
single word changed in this: "The Godhead is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the 
becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore, similarly, the reason 
(Vernunft) is concerned only to strive towards the divine through the becoming and the living, and 
the understanding (Verstand) only to make use of the become and the set-fast" (to Eckermann). 
This sentence comprises my entire philosophy. 



5 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

outlines, possessed of full inward necessity, a solution derived from one single 
principle that though discoverable had never been discovered, that from my 
youth had haunted and attracted me, tormenting me with the sense that it was 
there and must be attacked and yet defying me to seize it. Thus, from an almost 
accidental occasion of beginning, there has arisen the present work, which is 
put forward as the provisional expression of a new world-picture. The book is 
laden, as I know, with all the defects of a first attempt, incomplete, and cer- 
tainly not free from inconsistencies. Nevertheless I am convinced that it con- 
tains the incontrovertible formulation of an idea which, once enunciated 
clearly, will (I repeat) be accepted without dispute. 

If, then, the narrower theme is an analysis of the Decline of that West- 
European Culture which is now spread over the entire globe, yet the object in 
view is the development of a philosophy and of the operative method peculiar 
to it, which is now to be tried, viz., the method of comparative morphology in 
world-history. The work falls naturally into two parts. The first, "Form and 
Actuality," starts from the form-language of the great Cultures, attempts to 
penetrate to the deepest roots of their origin and so provides itself with the 
basis for a science of Symbolic. The second part, "World-historical Perspec- 
tives," starts from the facts of actual life, and from the historical practice of 
higher mankind seeks to obtain a quintessence of historical experience that we 
can set to work upon the formation of our own future. 

The accompanying tables l present a general view of what has resulted from 
the investigation. They may at the same time give some notion both of the 
fruitfulness and of the scope of the new methods. 

1 At the end of the volume. 



CHAPTER II 
THE MEANING OF NUMBERS 



^ 



CHAPTER II 

THE MEANING OF NUMBERS 



It is necessary to begin by drawing attention to certain basic terms which, as 
used in this work, carry strict and in some cases novel connotations. Though the 
metaphysical content of these terms would gradually become evident in following 
the course of the reasoning, nevertheless, the exact significance to be attached 
to them ought to be made clear beyond misunderstanding from the very outset. 

The popular distinction — current also in philosophy — between " being' ' 
and " becoming" seems to miss the essential point in the contrast it is meant to 
express. An endless becoming — "action," "actuality" — will always be 
thought of also as a condition (as it is, for example, in physical notions such as 
uniform velocity and the condition of motion, and in the basic hypothesis of 
the kinetic theory of gases) and therefore ranked in the category of "being." 
On the other hand, out of the results that we do in fact obtain by and in con- 
sciousness, we may, with Goethe, distinguish as final elements "becoming" 
and "the become" (DasWerden, das Gewordne). In all cases, though the atom 
of human-ness may lie beyond the grasp of our powers of abstract conception, 
the very clear and definite feeling of this contrast — fundamental and diffused 
throughout consciousness — is the most elemental something that we reach. 
It necessarily follows therefore that "the become" is always founded on a 
"becoming" and not the other way round. 

I distinguish further, by the words "proper" and "alien" (das Eigne, das 
Fremde), those two basic facts of consciousness which for all men in the waking 
(not in the dreaming) state are established with an immediate inward cer- 
tainty, without the necessity or possibility of more precise definition. The 
element called " alien" is always related in some way to the basic fact expressed 
by the word "perception," i.e., the outer world, the life of sensation. Great 
thinkers have bent all their powers of image-forming to the task of expressing 
this relation, more and more rigorously, by the aid of half-intuitive dichotomies 
such as "phenomena and things-in-themselves," " world-as-will and world- 
as-idea," "ego and non-ego," although human powers of exact knowing are 
surely inadequate for the task. 

Similarly, the element 4 4 proper ' ' is involved with the basic fact known as 
feeling, i.e., the inner life, in some intimate and invariable way that equally 
defies analysis by the methods of abstract thought. 

53 



54 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

I distinguish, again, "soul" and "world." The existence of this opposition is 
identical with the fact of purely human waking consciousness (Wachsein). There are 
degrees of clearness and sharpness in the opposition and therefore grades of the 
consciousness, of the spirituality, of life. These grades range from the feeling- 
knowledge that, unalert yet sometimes suffused through and through by an 
inward light, is characteristic of the primitive and of the child (and also of those 
moments of religious and artistic inspiration that occur ever less and less often 
as a Culture grows older) right to the extremity of waking and reasoning sharp- 
ness that we find, for instance, in the thought of Kant and Napoleon, for whom 
soul and world have become subject and object. This elementary structure of 
consciousness, as a fact of immediate inner knowledge, is not susceptible of 
conceptual subdivision. Nor, indeed, are the two factors distinguishable at 
all except verbally and more or less artificially, since they are always associated, 
always intertwined, and present themselves as a unit, a totality. The episte- 
mological starting-point of the born idealist and the born realist alike, the 
assumption that soul is to world (or world to soul, as the case may be) as foun- 
dation is to building, as primary to derivative, as "cause" to "effect," has no 
basis whatever in the pure fact of consciousness, and when a philosophic system 
lays stress on the one or the other, it only thereby informs us as to the personal- 
ity of the philosopher, a fact of purely biographical significance. 

Thus, by regarding waking-consciousness structurally as a tension of con- 
traries, and applying to it the notions of * * becoming ' ' and * * the thing-become, ' ' 
we find for the word Life a perfectly definite meaning that is closely allied to 
that of "becoming." We may describe becomings and the things-become as 
the form in which respectively the facts and the results of life exist in the wak- 
ing consciousness. To man in the waking state his proper life, progressive and 
constantly self-fulfilling, is presented through the element of Becoming in his 
consciousness — this fact we call "the present" — and it possesses that mysterious 
property of Direction which in all the higher languages men have sought to im- 
pound and — vainly — to rationalize by means of the enigmatic word time. 
It follows necessarily from the above that there is a fundamental connexion 
between the become (the hard-set) and Death. 

If, now, we designate the Soul — that is, the Soul as it is felt, not as it is 
reasonably pictured — as the possible and the World on the other hand as the 
actual (the meaning of these expressions is unmistakable to man's inner sense), 
we see life as the form in which the actualizing of the possible is accomplished. With 
respect to the property of Direction, the possible is called the Future and the 
actualized the Vast. The actualizing itself, the centre-of-gravity and the centre- 
of-meaning of life, we call the Present. "Soul" is the still-to-be-accomplished, 
"World" the accomplished, "life" the accomplishing. In this way we are 
enabled to assign to expressions like moment, duration, development, life- 
content, vocation, scope, aim, fullness and emptiness of life, the definite mean- 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 55 

ings which we shall need for all that follows and especially for the understand- 
ing of historical phenomena. 

Lastly, the words History and Nature are here employed, as the reader will 
have observed already, in a quite definite and hitherto unusual sense. These 
words comprise possible modes of understanding, of comprehending the totality 
of knowledge — becoming as well as things-become, life as well as things-lived 

— as a homogeneous, spiritualized, well-ordered world-picture fashioned out of 
an indivisible mass-impression in this way or in that according as the becoming 
or the become, direction ("time") or extension ("space") is the dominant 
factor. And it is not a question of one factor being alternative to the other. 
The possibilities that we have of possessing an "outer world" that reflects and 
attests our proper existence are infinitely numerous and exceedingly hetero- 
geneous, and the purely organic and the purely mechanical world-view (in the 
precise literal sense of that familiar term *) are only the extreme members of the 
series. Primitive man (so far as we can imagine his waking-consciousness) and 
the child (as we can remember) cannot fully see or grasp these possibilities. 
One condition of this higher world-consciousness is the possession of language, 
meaning thereby not mere human utterance but a culture-language, and such 
is non-existent for primitive man and existent but not accessible in the case of 
the child. In other words, neither possesses any clear and distinct notion of the 
world. They have an inkling but no real knowledge of history and nature, 
being too intimately incorporated with the ensemble of these. They have no 
Culture, 

And therewith that important word is given a positive meaning of the high- 
est significance which henceforward will be assumed in using it. In the same 
way as we have elected to distinguish the Soul as the possible and the World 
as the actual, we can now differentiate between possible and actual culture, i.e., 
culture as an idea in the (general or individual) existence and culture as the body 
of that idea, as the total of its visible, tangible and comprehensible expressions 

— acts and opinions, religion and state, arts and sciences, peoples and cities, 
economic and social forms, speech, laws, customs, characters, facial lines and 
costumes. Higher history, intimately related to life and to becoming, is the 
actualizing of possible Culture. 2 

We must not omit to add that these basic determinations of meaning are 
largely incommunicable by specification, definition or proof, and in their deeper 
import must be reached by feeling, experience and intuition. There is a distinc- 
tion, rarely appreciated as it should be, between experience as lived and experi- 
ence as learned (zwischen Erleben und Erkennen), between the immediate 
certainty given by the various kinds of intuition — such as illumination, 
inspiration, artistic flair, experience of life, the power of "sizing men up" 

1 Weltanschauung im wortlichen Sinnc; Anschauung der Welt. 

* The case of mankind in the history less state is discussed in Vol. II, pp. 58 et seq. 



56 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

(Goethe's "exact percipient fancy") — and the product of rational procedure 
and technical experiment. 

The first are imparted by means of analogy, picture, symbol, the second by 
formula, law, scheme. The become is experienced by learning — indeed, as we 
shall see, the having-become is for the human mind identical with the com- 
pleted act of cognition. A becoming, on the other hand, can only be experi- 
enced by living, felt with a deep wordless understanding. It is on this that 
what we call "knowledge of men" is based; in fact the understanding of his- 
tory implies a superlative knowledge of men. The eye which can see into the 
depths of an alien soul — owes nothing to the cognition-methods investigated 
in the "Critique of Pure Reason," yet the purer the historical picture is, the less 
accessible it becomes to any other eye. The mechanism of a pure nature-picture, 
such as the world of Newton and Kant, is cognized, grasped, dissected in laws 
and equations and finally reduced to system: the organism of a pure history- 
picture, like the world of Plotinus, Dante and Giordano Bruno, is intuitively 
seen, inwardly experienced, grasped as a form or symbol and finally rendered in 
poetical and artistic conceptions. Goethe's "living nature" is a historical 
world-picture. 1 

ii 

In order to exemplify the way in which a soul seeks to actualize itself in the 
picture of its outer world — to show, that is, in how far Culture in the "be- 
come" state can express or portray an idea of human existence — I have chosen 
number, the primary element on which all mathematics rests. I have done so 
because mathematics, accessible in its full depth only to the very few, holds a 
quite peculiar position amongst the creations of the mind. It is a science of the 
most rigorous kind, like logic but more comprehensive and very much fuller; 
it is a true art, along with sculpture and music, as needing the guidance of in- 
spiration and as developing under great conventions of form; it is, lastly, a 
metaphysic of the highest rank, as Plato and above all Leibniz show us. 
Every philosophy has hitherto grown up in conjunction with a mathematic 
belonging to it. Number is the symbol of causal necessity. Like the conception 
of God, it contains the ultimate meaning of the world-as-nature. The exist- 
ence of numbers may therefore be called a mystery, and the religious thought 
of every Culture has felt their impress. 2 

Just as all becoming possesses the original property of direction (irreversi- 
bility), all things-become possess the property of extension. But these two 
words seem unsatisfactory in that only an artificial distinction can be made 
between them. The real secret of all things-become, which are ipso facto things 
extended (spatially and materially), is embodied in mathematical number as 
contrasted with chronological number. Mathematical number contains in its 

1 With, moreover, a "biological horizon." See Vol. II, p. 34. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 317 et seq. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 57 

very essence the notion of a mechanical demarcation, number being in that respect 
akin to word, which, in the very fact of its comprising and denoting, fences off 
world-impressions. The deepest depths, it is true, are here both incomprehen- 
sible and inexpressible. But the actual number with which the mathematician 
works, the figure, formula, sign, diagram, in short the number-sign which he 
thinks, speaks or writes exactly, is (like the exactly-used word) from the first a 
symbol of these depths, something imaginable, communicable, comprehensible 
to the inner and the outer eye, which can be accepted as representing the demar- 
cation. The origin of numbers resembles that of the myth. Primitive man 
elevates indefinable nature-impressions (the " alien," in our terminology) into 
deities, numina, at the same time capturing and impounding them by a name 
which limits them. So also numbers are something that marks off and captures 
nature-impressions, and it is by means of names and numbers that the human 
understanding obtains power over the world. In the last analysis, the number- 
language of a mathematic and the grammar of a tongue are structurally alike. 
Logic is always a kind of mathematic and vice versa. Consequently, in all acts 
of the intellect germane to mathematical number — measuring, counting, 
drawing, weighing, arranging and dividing x — men strive to delimit the ex- 
tended in words as well, i.e., to set it forth in the form of proofs, conclusions, 
theorems and systems; and it is only through acts of this kind (which may be 
more or less unintentioned) that waking man begins to be able to use numbers, 
normatively, to specify objects and properties, relations and differentiae, unities 
and pluralities — briefly, that structure of the world-picture which he feels as 
necessary and unshakable, calls " Nature" and " cognizes." Nature is the 
numerable, while History, on the other hand, is the aggregate of that which has 
no relation to mathematics — hence the mathematical certainty of the laws of 
Nature, the astounding rightness of Galileo's saying that Nature is " written 
in mathematical language," and the fact, emphasized by Kant, that exact 
natural science reaches just as far as the possibilities of applied mathematics 
allow it to reach. In number, then, as the sign of completed demarcation, lies the 
essence of everything actual, which is cognized, is delimited, and has become all 
at once — as Pythagoras and certain others have been able to see with complete 
inward certitude by a mighty and truly religious intuition. Nevertheless, 
mathematics — meaning thereby the capacity to think practically in figures — 
must not be confused with the far narrower scientific mathematics, that is, the 
theory of numbers as developed in lecture and treatise. The mathematical vision 
and thought that a Culture possesses within itself is as inadequately represented 
by its written mathematic as its philosophical vision and thought by its 
philosophical treatises. Number springs from a source that has also quite 
other outlets. Thus at the beginning of every Culture we find an archaic style, 
which might fairly have been called geometrical in other cases as well as the 
1 Also "thinking in money." See Vol. II, pp. 603 et seq. 



58 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Early Hellenic. There is a common factor which is expressly mathematical 
in this early Classical style of the ioth Century b.c, in the temple style of the 
Egyptian Fourth Dynasty with its absolutism of straight line and right angle, 
in the Early Christian sarcophagus-relief, and in Romanesque construction and 
ornament. Here every line, every deliberately non-imitative figure of man and 
beast, reveals a mystic number-thought in direct connexion with the mystery of 
death (the hard-set). 

Gothic cathedrals and Doric temples are mathematics in stone. Doubtless 
Pythagoras was the first in the Classical Culture to conceive number scientif- 
ically as the principle of a world-order of comprehensible things — as standard 
and as magnitude — but even before him it had found expression, as a noble 
arraying of sensuous-material units, in the strict canon of the statue and the 
Doric order of columns. The great arts are, one and all, modes of interpreta- 
tion by means of limits based on number (consider, for example, the problem of 
space-representation in oil painting). A high mathematical endowment may, 
without any mathematical science whatsoever, come to fruition and full self- 
knowledge in technical spheres. 

In the presence of so powerful a number-sense as that evidenced, even in the 
Old Kingdom, 1 in the dimensioning of pyramid temples and in the technique 
of building, water-control and public administration (not to mention the 
calendar), no one surely would maintain that the valueless arithmetic of 
Ahmes belonging to the New Empire represents the level of Egyptian mathe- 
matics. The Australian natives, who rank intellectually as thorough primi- 
tives, possess a mathematical instinct (or, what comes to the same thing, a 
power of thinking in numbers which is not yet communicable by signs or words) 
that as regards the interpretation of pure space is far superior to that of the 
Greeks. Their discovery of the boomerang can only be attributed to their 
having a sure feeling for numbers of a class that we should refer to the higher 
geometry. Accordingly — we shall justify the adverb later — they possess an 
extraordinarily complicated ceremonial and, for expressing degrees of affinity, 
such fine shades of language as not even the higher Cultures themselves can 
show. 

There is analogy, again, between the Euclidean mathematic and the absence, 
in the Greek of the mature Periclean age, of any feeling either for ceremonial 
public life or for loneliness, while the Baroque, differing sharply from the 
Classical, presents us with a mathematic of spatial analysis, a court of Ver- 
sailles and a state system resting on dynastic relations. 

It is the style of a Soul that comes out in the world of numbers, and the 
world of numbers includes something more than the science thereof. 

1 Dynasties I-Vm, or, effectively, I-VI. The Pyramid period coincides with Dynasties IV-VI. 
Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus belong to the IV dynasty, under which also great water-control 
works were carried out between Abydos and the Fayum. — 7>. 



V 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 59 

in 

From this there follows a fact of decisive importance which has hitherto 
been hidden from the mathematicians themselves. 

There is not, and cannot be, number as such. There are several number-worlds 
as there are several Cultures. We find an Indian, an Arabian, a Classical, a 
Western type of mathematical thought and, corresponding with each, a type 
of number — each type fundamentally peculiar and unique, an expression of a 
specific world-feeling, a symbol having a specific validity which is even capable 
of scientific definition, a principle of ordering the Become which reflects the 
central essence of one and only one soul, viz., the soul of that particular Cul- 
ture. Consequently, there are more mathematics than one. For indubitably 
the inner structure of the Euclidean geometry is something quite different from 
that of the Cartesian, the analysis of Archimedes is something other than the 
analysis of Gauss, and not merely in matters of form, intuition and method but 
above all in essence, in the intrinsic and obligatory meaning of number which 
they respectively develop and set forth. This number, the horizon within 
which it has been able to make phenomena self-explanatory, and therefore the 
whole of the 44 nature" or world-extended that is confined in the given limits 
and amenable to its particular sort of mathematic, are not common to all man- 
kind, but specific in each case to one definite sort of mankind. 

The style of any mathematic which comes into being, then, depends wholly 
on the Culture in which it is rooted, the sort of mankind it is that ponders it. 
The soul can bring its inherent possibilities to scientific development, can 
manage them practically, can attain the highest levels in its treatment of them 
— but is quite impotent to alter them. The idea of the Euclidean geometry is 
actualized in the earliest forms of Classical ornament, and that of the Infini- 
tesimal Calculus in the earliest forms of Gothic architecture, centuries before 
the first learned mathematicians of the respective Cultures were born. 

A deep inward experience, the genuine awakening of the ego, which turns the 
child into the higher man and initiates him into community of his Culture, 
marks the beginning of number-sense as it does that of language-sense. It is 
only after this that objects come to exist for the waking consciousness as things 
limitable and distinguishable as to number and kind; only after this that prop- 
erties, concepts, causal necessity, system in the world-around, a form of the 
world, and world laws (for that which is set and settled is ipso facto bounded, 
hardened, number-governed) are susceptible of exact definition. And therewith 
comes too a sudden, almost metaphysical, feeling of anxiety and awe regarding 
the deeper meaning of measuring and counting, drawing and form. 

Now, Kant has classified the sum of human knowledge according to syn- 
theses a priori (necessary and universally valid) and a posteriori (experiential and 
variable from case to case) and in the former class has included mathematical 
knowledge. Thereby, doubtless, he was enabled to reduce a strong inward 



60 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

feeling to abstract form. But, quite apart from the fact (amply evidenced in 
modern mathematics and mechanics) that there is no such sharp distinction 
between the two as is originally and unconditionally implied in the principle, 
the a -priori itself, though certainly one of the most inspired conceptions of 
philosophy, is a notion that seems to involve enormous difficulties. With it 
Kant postulates — without attempting to prove what is quite incapable of 
proof — both unalterableness of form in all intellectual activity and identity of 
form for all men in the same. And, in consequence, a factor of incalculable im- 
portance is — thanks to the intellectual prepossessions of his period, not to 
mention his own — simply ignored. This factor is the varying degree of this 
alleged "universal validity." There are doubtless certain characters of very 
wide-ranging validity which are (seemingly at any rate) independent of the 
Culture and century to which the cognizing individual may belong, but along 
with these there is a quite particular necessity of form which underlies all his 
thought as axiomatic and to which he is subject by virtue of belonging to his 
own Culture and no other. Here, then, we have two very different kinds of a 
priori thought-content, and the definition of a frontier between them, or even 
the demonstration that such exists, is a problem that lies beyond all possibili- 
ties of knowing and will never be solved. So far, no one has dared to assume 
that the supposed constant structure of the intellect is an illusion and that the 
history spread out before us contains more than one style of knowing. But we 
must not forget that unanimity about things that have not yet become problems 
may just as well imply universal error as universal truth. True, there has 
always been a certain sense of doubt and obscurity — so much so, that the 
correct guess might have been made from that non-agreement of the philoso- 
phers which every glance at the history of philosophy shows us. But that this 
non-agreement is not due to imperfections of the human intellect or present 
gaps in a perfectible knowledge, in a word, is not due to defect, but to destiny 
and historical necessity — this is a discovery. Conclusions on the deep and final 
things are to be reached not by predicating constants but by studying differ- 
entiae and developing the organic logic of differences. The comparative morphology 
of knowledge forms is a domain which Western thought has still to attack. 

IV 

If mathematics were a mere science like astronomy or mineralogy, it would 
be possible to define their object. This man is not and never has been able to do. 
We West-Europeans may put our own scientific notion of number to perform 
the same tasks as those with which the mathematicians of Athens and Baghdad 
busied themselves, but the fact remains that the theme, the intention and the 
methods of the like-named science in Athens and in Baghdad were quite differ- 
ent from those of our own. There is no mathematic but only mathematics. What 
we call "the history of mathematics" — implying merely the progressive 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 61 

actualizing of a single invariable ideal — is in fact, below the deceptive surface 
of history, a complex of self-contained and independent developments, an ever- 
repeated process of bringing to birth new form-worlds and appropriating, 
transforming and sloughing alien form-worlds, a purely organic story of blos- 
soming, ripening, wilting and dying within the set period. The student must 
not let himself be deceived. The mathematic of the Classical soul sprouted 
almost out of nothingness, the historically-constituted Western soul, already 
possessing the Classical science (not inwardly, but outwardly as a thing learnt), 
had to win its own by apparently altering and perfecting, but in reality destroying 
the essentially alien Euclidean system. In the first case, the agent was Pytha- 
goras, in the second Descartes. In both cases the act is, at bottom, the same. 
The relationship between the form-language of a mathematic and that of 
the cognate major arts, 1 is in this way put beyond doubt. The temperament of 
the thinker and that of the artist differ widely indeed, but the expression- 
methods of the waking consciousness are inwardly the same for each. The sense 
of form of the sculptor, the painter, the composer is essentially mathematical 
in its nature. The same inspired ordering of an infinite world which manifested 
itself in the geometrical analysis and projective geometry of the 17th Century, 
could vivify, energize, and suffuse contemporary music with the harmony that 
it developed out of the art of thoroughbass, (which is the geometry of the 
sound-world) and contemporary painting with the principle of perspective 
(the felt geometry of the space-world that only the West knows). This inspired 
ordering is that which Goethe called " The Idea, of which the form is immediately 
afpehended in the domain of intuition, whereas pure science does not apprehend 
but observes and dissects." The Mathematic goes beyond observation and 
dissection, and in its highest moments finds the way by vision, not abstraction. 
To Goethe again we owe the profound saying: "the mathematician is only 
complete in so far as he feels within himself the beauty of the true." Here we 
feel how nearly the secret of number is related to the secret of artistic creation. 
And so the born mathematician takes his place by the side of the great masters 
of the fugue, the chisel and the brush; he and they alike strive, and must strive, 
to actualize the grand order of all things by clothing it in symbol and so to 
communicate it to the plain fellow-man who hears that order within himself 
but cannot effectively possess it; the domain of number, like the domains of 
tone, line and colour, becomes an image of the world-form. For this reason 
the word "creative" means more in the mathematical sphere than it does in the 
pure sciences — Newton, Gauss, and Riemann were artist-natures, and we 
know with what suddenness their great conceptions came upon them. 2 44 A 

1 As also those of law and of money. See Vol. II, pp. 68 et seq., pp. 616 et seq. 

2 Poincar6, in his Science et Mhbode (Ch. Ill), searchingly analyses the " becoming" of one of his 
own mathematical discoveries. Each decisive stage in it bears " les mimes caracieres de brievetS, de 
oudaineti et de certitude absolue" and in most cases this "certitude 1 ' was such that he merely registered 
the discovery and put off its working-out to any convenient season. — Tr, 



& THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

mathematician," said old Weierstrass, "who is not at the same time a bit of a 
poet will never be a full mathematician." 

The mathematic, then, is an art. As such it has its styles and style-periods. 
It is not, as the layman and the philosopher (who is in this matter a lay- 
man too) imagine, substantially unalterable, but subject like every art to un- 
noticed changes from epoch to epoch. The development of the great arts ought 
never to be treated without an (assuredly not unprofitable) side-glance at con- 
temporary mathematics. In the very deep relation between changes of musical 
theory and the analysis of the infinite, the details have never yet been investi- 
gated, although aesthetics might have learned a great deal more from these 
than from all so-called "psychology." Still more revealing would be a history 
of musical instruments written, not (as it always is) from the technical stand- 
point of tone-production, but as a study of the deep spiritual bases of the tone- 
colours and tone-effects aimed at. For it was the wish, intensified to the point 
of a longing, to fill a spatial infinity with sound which produced — in contrast 
to the Classical lyre and reed (lyra, kithara; aulos, syrinx) and the Arabian 
lute — the two great families of keyboard instruments (organ, pianoforte, etc.) 
and bow instruments, and that as early as the Gothic time. The development 
of both these families belongs spiritually (and possibly also in point of technical 
origin) to the Celtic-Germanic North lying between Ireland, the Weser and the 
Seine. The organ and clavichord belong certainly to England, the bow in- 
struments reached their definite forms in Upper Italy between 1480 and 1530, 
while it was principally in Germany that the organ was developed into the 
sface-commanding giant that we know, an instrument the like of which does not 
exist in all musical history. The free organ-playing of Bach and his time was 
nothing if it was not analysis — analysis of a strange and vast tone-world. 
And, similarly, it is in conformity with the Western number-thinking, and in 
opposition to the Classical, that our string and wind instruments have been 
developed not singly but in great groups (strings, woodwind, brass), ordered 
within themselves according to the compass of the four human voices; the 
history of the modern orchestra, with all its discoveries of new and modifica- 
tion of old instruments, is in reality the self-contained history of one tone-world 
— a world, moreover, that is quite capable of being expressed in the forms of the 
higher analysis. 



When, about 540 B.C., the circle of the Pythagoreans arrived at the idea that 
number is the essence of all things, it was not "a step in the development of mathe- 
matics" that was made, but a wholly new mathematic that was born. Long 
heralded by metaphysical problem-posings and artistic form-tendencies, now it 
came forth from the depths of the Classical soul as a formulated theory, a 
mathematic born in one act at one great historical moment — just as the 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 63 

mathematic of the Egyptians had been, and the algebra-astronomy of the 
Babylonian Culture with its ecliptic co-ordinate system — and new — for these 
older mathematics had long been extinguished and the Egyptian was never 
written down. Fulfilled by the xnd century a.d., the Classical mathematic 
vanished in its turn (for though it seemingly exists even to-day, it is only as a 
convenience of notation that it does so), and gave place to the Arabian. From 
what we know of the Alexandrian mathematic, it is a necessary presumption 
that there was a great movement within the Middle East, of which the centre 
of gravity must have lain in the Persian-Babylonian schools (such as Edessa, 
Gundisapora and Ctesiphon) and of which only details found their way into 
the regions of Classical speech. In spite of their Greek names, the Alexandrian 
mathematicians — Zenodorus who dealt with figures of equal perimeter, 
Serenus who worked on the properties of a harmonic pencil in space, Hypsicles 
who introduced the Chaldean circle-division, Diophantus above all — were 
all without doubt Aramaeans, and their works only a small part of a literature 
which was written principally in Syriac. This mathematic found its comple- 
tion in the investigations of the Arabian-Islamic thinkers, and after these 
there was again a long interval. And then a perfectly new mathematic was 
born, the Western, our own, which in our infatuation we regard as 44 Mathe- 
matics/ f as the culmination and the implicit purpose of two thousand years' 
evolution, though in reality its centuries are (strictly) numbered and to-day 
almost spent. 

The most valuable thing in the Classical mathematic is its proposition that 
number is the essence of all things perceptible to the senses. Defining number as a 
measure, it contains the whole world-feeling of a soul passionately devoted to 
the "here" and the "now." Measurement in this sense means the measure- 
ment of something near and corporeal. Consider the content of the Classical 
art-work, say the free-standing statue of a naked man; here every essential and 
important element of Being, its whole rhythm, is exhaustively rendered by 
surfaces, dimensions and the sensuous relations of the parts. The Pythagorean 
notion of the harmony of numbers, although it was probably deduced from 
music — a music, be it noted, that knew not polyphony or harmony, and 
formed its instruments to render single plump, almost fleshy, tones — seems to 
be the very mould for a sculpture that has this ideal. The worked stone is only 
a something in so far as it has considered limits and measured form; what it is 
is what it has become under the sculptor's chisel. Apart from this it is a chaos, 
something not yet actualized, in fact for the time being a null. The same feeling 
transferred to the grander stage produces, as an opposite to the state of chaos, 
that of cosmos, which for the Classical soul implies a cleared-up situation of the 
external world, a harmonic order which includes each separate thing as a well- 
defined, comprehensible and present entity. The sum of such things constitutes 
neither more nor less than the whole world, and the interspaces between them, 



64 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

which for us are filled with the impressive symbol of the Universe of Space, are 
for them the nonent Qrd nij 6v). 

Extension means, for Classical mankind body, and for us space, and it is 
as a function of space that, to us, things "appear." And, looking backward 
from this standpoint, we may perhaps see into the deepest concept of the Classi- 
cal metaphysics, Anaximander's &iret.pov — a word that is quite untranslatable 
into any Western tongue. It is that which possesses no "number" in the 
Pythagorean sense of the word, no measurable dimensions or definable limits, 
and therefore no being; the measureless, the negation of form, the statue not yet 
carved out of the block; the dpx^ optically boundless and formless, which only 
becomes a something (namely, the world) after being split up by the senses. 
It is the underlying form a priori of Classical cognition, bodiliness as such, which 
is replaced exactly in the Kantian world-picture by that Space out of which 
Kant maintained that all things could be "thought forth." 

We can now understand what it is that divides one mathematic from an- 
other, and in particular the Classical from the Western. The whole world- 
feeling of the matured Classical world led it to see mathematics only as the 
theory of relations of magnitude, dimension and form between bodies. When, 
from out of this feeling, Pythagoras evolved and expressed the decisive formula, 
number had come, for him, to be an optical symbol — not a measure of form 
generally, an abstract relation, but a frontier-post of the domain of the Become, 
or rather of that part of it which the senses were able to split up and pass under 
review. By the whole Classical world without exception numbers are con- 
ceived as units of measure, as magnitude, lengths, or surfaces, and for it no 
other sort of extension is imaginable. The whole Classical mathematic is at 
bottom Stereometry (solid geometry). To Euclid, who rounded off its system in 
the third century, the triangle is of deep necessity the bounding surface of a 
body, never a system of three intersecting straight lines or a group of three 
points in three-dimensional space. He defines a line as "length without 
breadth" (firjicos d7r\arfe). In our mouths such a definition would be pitiful 
— in the Classical mathematic it was brilliant. 

The Western number, too, is not, as Kant and even Helmholtz thought, 
something proceeding out of Time as an a priori form of conception, but is some- 
thing specifically spatial, in that it is an order (or ordering) of like units. 
Actual time (as we shall see more and more clearly in the sequel) has not the 
slightest relation with mathematical things. Numbers belong exclusively to 
the domain of extension. But there are precisely as many possibilities — and 
therefore necessities — of ordered presentation of the extended as there are 
Cultures. Classical number is a thought-process dealing not with spatial rela- 
tions but with visibly limitable and tangible units, and it follows naturally 
and necessarily that the Classical knows only the "natural" (positive and 
whole) numbers, which on the contrary olay in our Western mathematics a 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 65 

quite undistinguished part in the midst of complex, hypercomplex, non- 
Archimedean and other number-systems. 

On this account, the idea of irrational numbers — the unending decimal 
fractions of our notation — was unrealizable within the Greek spirit. Euclid 
says — and he ought to have been better understood — that incommensurable 
lines are "not related to one another like numbers" In fact, it is the idea of irra- 
tional number that, once achieved, separates the notion of number from that of 
magnitude, for the magnitude of such a number (ir, for example) can never be 
defined or exactly represented by any straight line. Moreover, it follows from 
this that in considering the relation, say, between diagonal and side in a square 
the Greek would be brought up suddenly against a quite other sort of number, 
which was fundamentally alien to the Classical soul, and was consequently 
feared as a secret of its proper existence too dangerous to be unveiled. There is 
a singular and significant late-Greek legend, according to which the man who 
first published the hidden mystery of the irrational perished by shipwreck, 
4 'for the unspeakable and the formless must be left hidden for ever." l 

The fear that underlies this legend is the selfsame notion that prevented even 
the ripest Greeks from extending their tiny city-states so as to organize the 
country-side politically, from laying out their streets to end in prospects and 
their alleys to give vistas, that made them recoil time and again from the 
Babylonian astronomy with its penetration of endless starry space, 2 and refuse 
to venture out of the Mediterranean along sea-paths long before dared by the 
Phoenicians and the Egyptians. It is the deep metaphysical fear that the sense- 
comprehensible and present in which the Classical existence had entrenched 
itself would collapse and precipitate its cosmos (largely created and sustained 
by art) into unknown primitive abysses. And to understand this fear is to 
understand the final significance of Classical number — that is, measure in con- 
trast to the immeasurable — and to grasp the high ethical significance of its 
limitation. Goethe too, as a nature-student, felt it — hence his almost terri- 
fied aversion to mathematics, which as we can now see was really an involun- 

1 One may be permitted to add that according to legend, both Hippasus who took to himself 
public credit for the discovery of a sphere of twelve pentagons, viz., the regular dodecahedron 
(regarded by the Pythagoreans as the quintessence — or sether — of a world of real tetrahedrons, 
octahedrons, icosahedrons and cubes), and Archytas the eighth successor of the Founder are reputed 
to have been drowned at sea. The pentagon from which this dodecahedron is derived, itself involves 
incommensurable numbers. The "pentagram" was the recognition badge of Pythagoreans and the 
&\oyov (incommensurable) their special secret. It would be noted, too, that Pythagoreanism was 
popular till its initiates were found to be dealing'in these alarming and subversive doctrines, and then 
they were suppressed and lynched — a persecution which suggests more than one deep analogy with 
certain heresy-suppressions of Western history. The English student may be referred to G. J. Allman, 
Greek Geometry from Thalesto Euclid (Cambridge, 1889), and to his articles "Pythagoras,** "Philolaus** 
and "Archytas*' in the Ency. Brit., XI Edition. — Tr. 

2 Horace's words (Odes I xi): "Tu ne qusesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi quern tibi finem di dc- 
derint, Leuconoe, nee Babylonios temptaris numeros . . . carpe diem, quam minimum credula fostero. 
— Tr. 



66 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tary reaction against the non-Classical mathematic, the Infinitesimal Calculus 
which underlay the natural philosophy of his time. 

Religious feeling in Classical man focused itself ever more and more intensely 
upon physically present, localised cults which alone expressed a college of Eucli- 
dean deities. Abstractions, dogmas floating homeless in the space of thought, 
were ever alien to it. A cult of this kind has as much in common with a 
Roman Catholic dogma as the statue has with the cathedral organ. There is no 
doubt that something of cult was comprised in the Euclidean mathematic — 
consider, for instance, the secret doctrines of the Pythagoreans and the Theo- 
rems of regular polyhedrons with their esoteric significance in the circle of 
Plato. Just so, there is a deep relation between Descartes' analysis of the in- 
finite and contemporary dogmatic theology as it progressed from the final 
decisions of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation to entirely desensual- 
ifced deism. Descartes and Pascal were mathematicians and Jansenists, Leibniz a 
mathematician and pietist. Voltaire, Lagrange and D'Alembert were contem- 
poraries. Now, the Classical soul felt the principle of the irrational, which 
overturned the statuesquely-ordered array of whole numbers and the complete 
and self-sufficing world-order for which these stood, as an impiety against the 
Divine itself. In Plato's "Timasus" this feeling is unmistakable. For the trans- 
formation of a series of discrete numbers into a continuum challenged not merely 
the Classical notion of number but the Classical world-idea itself, and so it is 
understandable that even negative numbers, which to us offer no conceptual 
difficulty, were impossible in the Classical mathematic, let alone %ero as a 
number, that refined creation of a wonderful abstractive power which, for 
the Indian soul that conceived it as base for a positional numeration, was 
nothing more nor less than the key to the meaning of existence. Negative 
magnitudes have no existence. The expression ( — 2.) X ( — 3) = + 6 is neither 
something perceivable nor a representation of magnitude. The series of mag- 
nitudes ends with+ 1, and in graphic representation of negative numbers 
(+3 + i + 1 o — 1 — i — 3) we have suddenly, from zero onwards, -posi- 
tive symbols of something negative; they mean something, but they no longer 
are. But the fulfilment of this act did not lie within the direction of Classical 
number-thinking. 

Every product of the waking consciousness of the Classical world, then, is 
elevated to the rank of actuality by way of sculptural definition. That which 
cannot be drawn is not "number." Archytas and Eudoxus use the terms sur- 
face- and volume-numbers to mean what we call second and third powers, and 
it is easy to understand that the notion of higher integral powers did not 
exist for them, for a fourth power would predicate at once, for the mind based 
on the plastic feeling, an extension in four dimensions, and four material di- 
mensions into the bargain, "which is absurd." Expressions like e* 5 which we 
constantly use, or even the fractional index (e.g., 5*) which is employed in the 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 6 7 

Western mathematics as early as Oresme (14th Century), would have been to 
them utter nonsense. Euclid calls the factors of a product its sides ir\evpai 
and fractions (finite of course) were treated as whole-number relationships 
between two lines. Clearly, out of this no conception of zero as a number could 
possibly come, for from the point of view of a draughtsman it is meaningless. 
We, having minds differently constituted, must not argue from our habits to 
theirs and treat their mathematic as a "first stage" in the development of 
44 Mathematics." Within and for the purposes of the world that Classical man 
evolved for himself, the Classical mathematic was a complete thing — it is 
merely not so for us. Babylonian and Indian mathematics had long contained, 
as essential elements of their number-worlds, things which the Classical number- 
feeling regarded as nonsense — and not from ignorance either, since many a 
Greek thinker was acquainted with them. It must be repeated, * 4 Mathematics 
is an illusion. A mathematical, and, generally, a scientific way of thinking is 
right, convincing, a 44 necessity of thought," when it completely expresses the 
life-feeling proper to it. Otherwise it is either impossible, futile and senseless, 
or else, as we ifit the arrogance of our historical soul like to say, 44 primitive." 
The modern mathematic, though "true" only for the Western spirit, is un- 
deniably a master-work of that spirit; and yet to Plato it would have seemed a 
ridiculous and painful aberration from the path leading to the * * true " — to wit, 
the Classical — mathematic. And so with ourselves. Plainly, we have almost 
no notion of the multitude of great ideas belonging to other Cultures that we 
have suffered to lapse because our thought with its limitations has not permitted 
us to assimilate them, or (which comes to the same thing) has led us to reject 
them as false, superfluous, and nonsensical. 



VI 



The Greek mathematic, as a science of perceivable magnitudes, deliberately 
confines itself to facts of the comprehensibly present, and limits its researches 
and their validity to the near and the small. As compared with this impeccable 
consistency, the position of the Western mathematic is seen to be, practically, 
somewhat illogical, though it is only since the discovery of Non-Euclidean 
Geometry that the fact has been really recognized. Numbers are images of the 
perfectly desensualized understanding, of pure thought, and contain their ab- 
stract validity within themselves. 1 Their exact application to the actuality of 
conscious experience is therefore a problem in itself — a problem which is 
always being posed anew and never solved — and the congruence of mathe- 
matical system with empirical observation is at present anything but self- 
evident. Although the lay idea — as found in Schopenhauer — is that math- 
ematics rest upon the direct evidences of the senses, Euclidean geometry, 
superficially identical though it is with the popular geometry of all ages, is 

1 Sec Vol. II, pp. 11 ct scq. 



68 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

only in agreement with the phenomenal world approximately and within very 
narrow limits — in fact, the limits of a drawing-board. Extend these limits, 
and what becomes, for instance, of Euclidean parallels? They meet at the line 
of the horizon — a simple fact upon which all our art-perspective is grounded. 

Now, it is unpardonable that Kant, a Western thinker, should have evaded 
the mathematic of distance, and appealed to a set of figure-examples that their 
mere pettiness excludes from treatment by the specifically Western infinitesimal 
methods. But Euclid, as a thinker of the Classical age, was entirely consistent 
with its spirit when he refrained from proving the phenomenal truth of his 
axioms by referring to, say, the triangle formed by an observer and two in- 
finitely distant fixed stars. For these can neither be drawn nor "intuitively 
apprehended ' ' and his feeling was precisely the feeling which shrank from 
the irrationals, which did not dare to give nothingness a value as zero (i.e., 
a number) and even in the contemplation of cosmic relations shut its eyes to 
the Infinite and held to its symbol of Proportion. 

Aristarchus of Samos,who in xSS-xyy belonged to a circle of astronomers at 
Alexandria that doubtless had relations with Chaldaeo-Persian schools, pro- 
jected the elements of a heliocentric world-system. 1 Rediscovered by Coper- 
nicus, it was to shake the metaphysical passions of the West to their foundations 
— witness Giordano Bruno 2 — to become the fulfilment of mighty premoni- 
tions, and to justify that Faustian, Gothic world-feeling which had already 
professed its faith in infinity through the forms of its cathedrals. But the world 
of Aristarchus received his work with entire indifference and in a brief space of 
time it was forgotten — designedly, we may surmise. His few followers were 
nearly all natives of Asia Minor, his most prominent supporter Seleucus (about 
150) being from the Persian Seleucia on Tigris. In fact, the Aristarchian system 
had no spiritual appeal to the Classical Culture and might indeed have become 
dangerous to it. And yet it was differentiated from the Copernican (a point 
always missed) by something which made it perfectly conformable to the 
Classical world-feeling, viz., the assumption that the cosmos is contained in a 
materially finite and optically appreciable hollow sphere, in the middle of which 
the planetary system, arranged as such on Copernican lines, moved. In the 
Classical astronomy, the earth and the heavenly bodies are consistently re- 
garded as entities of two different kinds, however variously their movements 
in detail might be interpreted. Equally, the opposite idea that the earth is 
only a star among stars 8 is not inconsistent in itself with either the Ptolemaic or 

1 In the only writing of his that survives, indeed, Aristarchus maintains the geocentric view; 
it may be presumed therefore that it was only temporarily that he let himself be captivated by a 
hypothesis of .the Chaldaean learning. 

2 Giordano Bruno (born 1548, burned for heresy 1600). His whole life might be expressed as a 
crusade on behalf of God and the Copernican universe against a degenerated orthodoxy and an 
Aristotelian world-idea long coagulated in death. — Tr. 

» F. Strunz, Gesch. d. Naturwiss. im Minelalter (1910), p. 90. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 69 

the Copernican systems and in fact was pioneered by Nicolaus Cusanus and 
Leonardo da Vinci. But by this device of a celestial sphere the principle of 
infinity which would have endangered the sensuous-Classical notion of bounds 
was smothered. One would have supposed that the infinity-conception was 
inevitably implied by the system of Aristarchus — long before his time, the 
Babylonian thinkers had reached it. But no such thought emerges. On the 
contrary, in the famous treatise on the grains of sand * Archimedes proves that 
the filling of this stereometric body (for that is what Aristarchus's Cosmos is, 
after all) with atoms of sand leads to very high, but not to infinite, figure- 
results. This proposition, quoted though it may be, time and again, as being 
a first step towards the Integral Calculus, amounts to a denial (implicit indeed 
in the very title) of everything that we mean by the word analysis. Whereas 
in our physics, the constantly-surging hypotheses of a material (i.e., directly 
cognizable) asther, break themselves one after the other against our refusal to 
acknowledge material limitations of any kind, Eudoxus, Apollonius and Archi- 
medes, certainly the keenest and boldest of the Classical mathematicians, com- 
pletely worked out, in the main with rule and compass, a purely optical analysis 
of things-become on the basis of sculptural-Classical bounds. They used deeply- 
thought-out (and for us hardly understandable) methods of integration, but 
these possess only a superficial resemblance even to Leibniz's definite-integral 
method. They employed geometrical loci and co-ordinates, but these are always 
specified lengths and units of measurement and never, as in Fermat and above all 
in Descartes, unspecified spatial relations, values of points in terms of their 
positions in space. With these methods also should be classed the exhaustion- 
method of Archimedes, 2 given by him in his recently discovered letter to Eratos- 
thenes on such subjects as the quadrature of the parabola section by means of 
inscribed rectangles (instead of through similar polygons). But the very sub- 
tlety and extreme complication of his methods, which are grounded in certain 
of Plato's geometrical ideas, make us realize, in spite of superficial analogies, 
what an enormous difference separates him from Pascal. Apart altogether from 
the idea of Riemann's integral, what sharper contrast could there be to these 
ideas than the so-called quadratures of to-day? The name itself is now no more 
than an unfortunate survival, the "surface" is indicated by a bounding func- 
tion, and the drawing, as such, has vanished. Nowhere else did the two mathe- 
matical minds approach each other more closely than in this instance, and 
nowhere is it more evident that the gulf between the two souls thus expressing 
themselves is impassable. 

In the cubic style of their early architecture the Egyptians, so to say, con- 

1 In the "Psammites, ,, or "Arenarius," Archimedes framed a numerical notation which was 
to be capable of expressing the number of grains of sand in a sphere of the size of our universe. — Tr. 

2 This, for which the ground had been prepared by Eudoxus, was employed for calculating the 
volume of pyramids and cones: "the means whereby the Greeks were able to evade the forbidden no- 
tion of infinity" (Heiberg, Naturwiss. u. Math. i. Klass. Alter. [1911], p. 17). 



70 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

cealed pure numbers, fearful of stumbling upon their secret, and for the Hellenes 
too they were the key to the meaning of the become, the stiffened, the mortal. 
The stone statue and the scientific system deny life. Mathematical number, 
the formal principle of an extension-world of which the phenomenal existence 
is only the derivative and servant of waking human consciousness, bears the 
hall-mark of causal necessity and so is linked with death as chronological 
number is with becoming, with life, with the necessity of destiny. This con- 
nexion of strict mathematical form with the end of organic being, with the 
phenomenon of its organic remainder the corpse, we shall see more and more 
clearly to be the origin of all great art. We have already noticed the develop- 
ment of early ornament on funerary equipments and receptacles. Numbers are 
symbols of the mortal. Stiff forms are the negation of life, formulas and laws spread 
rigidity over the face of nature, numbers make dead — and the "Mothers'* of 
Faust II sit enthroned, majestic and withdrawn, in 

"The realms of Image unconfined. 
. . . Formation, transformation, 
Eternal play of the eternal mind 
With semblances of all things in creation 
For ever and for ever sweeping round/ ' x 

Goethe draws very near to Plato in this divination of one of the final secrets. 
For his unapproachable Mothers are Plato's Ideas — the possibilities of a 
spirituality, the unborn forms to be realized as active and purposed Culture, as 
art, thought, polity and religion, in a world ordered and determined by that 
spirituality. And so the number-thought and the world-idea of a Culture are 
related, and by this relation, the former is elevated above mere knowledge and 
experience and becomes a view of the universe, there being consequently as many 
mathematics — as many number-worlds — as there are higher Cultures. Only 
so can we understand, as something necessary, the fact that the greatest mathe- 
matical thinkers, the creative artists of the realm of numbers, have been brought 
to the decisive mathematical discoveries of their several Cultures by a deep 
religious intuition. 

Classical, Apollinian number we must regard as the creation of Pythagoras 
— who founded a religion. It was an instinct that guided Nicolaus Cusanus, the 
great Bishop of Brixen (about 1450), from the idea of the unendingness of God 
in nature to the elements of the Infinitesimal Calculus. Leibniz himself, who 
two centuries later definitely settled the methods and notation of the Calculus, 
was led by purely metaphysical speculations about the divine principle and its 
relation to infinite extent to conceive and develop the notion of an analysis 
situs — probably the most inspired of all interpretations of pure and emanci- 
pated space — the possibilities of which were to be developed later by Grass- 
mann in his Ausdehnungslehre and above all by Riemann, their real creator, in his 

1 Dr. Anster's translation. — Tr. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 7* 

symbolism of two-sided planes representative of the nature of equations. And 
Kepler and Newton, strictly religious natures both, were and remained con- 
vinced, like Plato, that it was precisely through the medium of number that 
they had been able to apprehend intuitively the essence of the divine world- 
order. 

VII 

The Classical arithmetic, we are always told, was first liberated from its 
sense-bondage, widened and extended by Diophantus, who did not indeed 
create algebra (the science of undefined magnitudes) but brought it to expression 
within the framework of the Classical mathematic that we know — and so 
suddenly that we have to assume that there was a pre-existent stock of ideas 
which he worked out. But this amounts, not to an enrichment of, but a com- 
plete victory over, the Classical world-feeling, and the mere fact should have 
sufficed in itself to show that, inwardly, Diophantus does not belong to the 
Classical Culture at all. What is active in him is a new number-feeling, or let 
us say a new limit-feeling with respect to the actual and become, and no longer 
that Hellenic feeling of sensuously-present limits which had produced the 
Euclidean geometry, the nude statue and the coin. Details of the formation of 
this new mathematic we do not know — Diophantus stands so completely by 
himself in the history of so-called late-Classical mathematics that an Indian 
influence has been presumed. But here also the influence it must really have 
been that of those early-Arabian schools whose studies (apart from the 
dogmatic) have hitherto been so imperfectly investigated. In Diophantus, 
unconscious though he may be of his own essential antagonism to the Classical 
foundations on which he attempted to build, there emerges from under the 
surface of Euclidean intention the new limit-feeling which I designate the 
"Magian." He did not widen the idea of number as magnitude, but (unwit- 
tingly) eliminated it. No Greek could have stated anything about an undefined 
number a or an undenominated number 3 — which are neither magnitudes nor 
lines — whereas the new limit-feeling sensibly expressed by numbers of this 
sort at least underlay, if it did not constitute, Diophantine treatment; and the 
letter-notation which we employ to clothe our own (again transvalued) algebra 
was first introduced by Vieta in 1591, an unmistakable, if unintended, protest 
against the classicizing tendency of Renaissance mathematics. 

Diophantus lived about Z50 a.d., that is, in the third century of that Arabian 
Culturewhose organic history, till now smothered under the surface-forms of the 
Roman Empire and the "Middle Ages," x comprises everything that happened 
after the beginning of our era in the region that was later to be Islam's. It was 
precisely in the time of Diophantus that the last shadow of the Attic statuary 
art paled before the new space-sense of cupola, mosaic and sarcophagus-relief 
that we have in the Early-Christian-Syrian style. In that time there was once 

1 See Vol. II, Chapter HI. 



7i THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

more archaic art and strictly geometrical ornament; and at that time too Dio- 
cletian completed the transformation of the now merely sham Empire into a 
Caliphate. The four centuries that separate Euclid and Diophantus, separate 
also Plato and Plotinus — the last and conclusive thinker, the Kant, of a 
fulfilled Culture and the first schoolman, the Duns Scotus, of a Culture just 
awakened. 

It is here that we are made aware for the first time of the existence of those 
higher individualities whose coming, growth and decay constitute the real 
substance of history underlying the myriad colours and changes of the surface. 
The Classical spirituality, which reached its final phase in the cold intelligence 
of the Romans and of which the whole Classical Culture with all its works, 
thoughts, deeds and ruins forms the "body," had been born about noo b.c. in 
the country about the ^Egean Sea. The Arabian Culture, which, under cover of 
the Classical Civilization, had been germinating in the East since Augustus, 
came wholly out of the region between Armenia and Southern Arabia, Alexan- 
dria and Ctesiphon, and we have to consider as expressions of this new soul 
almost the whole 4 4 late-Classical ' ' art of the Empire, all the young ardent relig- 
ions of the East — Mandasanism, Manichasism, Christianity, Neo-Platonism, 
and in Rome itself, as well as the Imperial Fora, that Pantheon which is the 
first of all mosques. 

That Alexandria and Antioch still wrote in Greek and imagined that they 
were thinking in Greek is a fact of no more importance than the facts that 
Latin was the scientific language of the West right up to the time of Kant and 
that Charlemagne " renewed* ' the Roman Empire. 

In Diophantus, number has ceased to be the measure and essence of plastic 
things. In the Ravennate mosaics man has ceased to be a body. Unnoticed, Greek 
designations have lost their original connotations. We have left the realm of 
Attic KaXoK&yaSLa the Stoic &rapa££a and yaXiivyj. Diophantus does not yet 
know zero and negative numbers, it is true, but he has ceased to know Pytha- 
gorean numbers. And this Arabian indeterminateness of number is, in its turn, 
something quite different from the controlled variability of the later Western 
mathematics, the variability of the function. 

The Magian mathematic — we can see the outline, though we are ignorant of 
the details — advanced through Diophantus (who is obviously not a starting- 
point) boldly and logically to a culmination in the Abbassid period (9th cen- 
tury) that we can appreciate in Al-Khwarizmi and Alsidzshi. And as Euclidean 
geometry is to Attic statuary (the same expression-form in a different medium) 
and the analysis of space to polyphonic music, so this algebra is to the Magian 
art with its mosaic, its arabesque (which the Sassanid Empire and later Byzan- 
tium produced with an ever-increasing profusion and luxury of tangible-intan- 
gible organic motives) and its Constantinian high-relief in which uncertain 
deep-darks divide the freely-handled figures of the foreground. As algebra is to 



''**:. \u 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 73 

Classical arithmetic and Western analysis, so is the cupola-church to the Doric 
temple and the Gothic cathedral. It is not as though Diophantus were one of 
the great mathematicians. On the contrary, much of what we have been 
accustomed to associate with his name is not his work alone. His accidental 
importance lies in the fact that, so far as our knowledge goes, he was the first 
mathematician in whom the new number-feeling is unmistakably present. In 
comparison with the masters who conclude the development of a mathematic — 
with Apollonius and Archimedes, with Gauss, Cauchy, Riemann — Diophan- 
tus has, in his form-language especially, something -primitive. This something, 
which till now we have been pleased to refer to "late-Classical" decadence, 
we shall presently learn to understand and value, just as we are revising our 
ideas as to the despised "late-Classical" art and beginning to see in it the 
tentative expression of the nascent Early Arabian Culture. Similarly archaic, 
primitive, and groping was the mathematic of Nicolas Oresme, Bishop of 
Lisieux (13Z3-138Z), 1 who was the first Western who used co-ordinates so to 
say elastically 2 and, more important still, to employ fractional powers — both 
of which presuppose a number-feeling, obscure it may be but quite unmistak- 
able, which is completely non-Classical and also non-Arabic. But if, further, 
we think of Diophantus together with the early-Christian sarcophagi of the 
Roman collections, and of Oresme together with the Gothic wall-statuary of 
the German cathedrals, we see that the mathematicians as well as the artists 
have something in common, which is, that they stand in their respective Cul- 
tures at the same (viz., the primitive) level of abstract understanding. In the 
world and age of Diophantus the stereometric sense of bounds, which had long 
ago reached in Archimedes the last stages of refinement and elegance proper to 
the megalopolitan intelligence, had passed away. Throughout that world men 
were unclear, longing, mystic, and no longer bright and free in the Attic way; 
they were men rooted in the earth of a young country-side, not megalopolitans 
like Euclid and D'Alembert. 3 They no longer understood the deep and com- 
plicated forms of the Classical thought, and their own were confused and new, 
far as yet from urban clarity and tidiness. Their Culture was in the Gothic 
condition, as all Cultures have been in their youth — as even the Classical was 
in the early Doric period which is known to us now only by its Dipylon pottery. 
Only in Baghdad and in the 9th and 10th Centuries were the young ideas of the 
age of Diophantus carried through to completion by ripe masters of the calibre 
of Plato and Gauss. 

1 Oresme was, equally, prelate, church reformer, scholar, scientist and economist — the very 
type of the philosopher-leader. — Tr. 

2 Oresme in his Latitudines Formarum used ordinate and abscissa, not indeed to specify numeri- 
cally, but certainly to describe, change, i.e., fundamentally, to express functions. — TV. 

8 Alexandria ceased to be a world-city in the second century a.d. and became a collection of 
houses left over from the Classical civilization which harboured a primitive population of quite 
different spiritual constitution. Sec Vol. II, pp. 12.2. et seq. 



74 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 



VIII 



The decisive act of Descartes, whose geometry appeared in 1637, consisted 
not in the introduction of a new method or idea in the domain of traditional 
geometry (as we are so frequently told), but in the definitive conception of a 
new number-idea, which conception was expressed in the emancipation of ge- 
ometry from servitude to optically-realizable constructions and to measured 
and measurable lines generally. With that, the analysis of the infinite became 
a fact. The rigid, so-called Cartesian, system of co-ordinates — a semi-Eucli- 
dean method of ideally representing measurable magnitudes — had long been 
known (witness Oresme) and regarded as of high importance, and when we 
get to the bottom of Descartes' thought we find that what he did was not to 
round off the system but to overcome it. Its last historic representative was 
Descartes' contemporary Fermat. 1 

In place of the sensuous element of concrete lines and planes — the specific 
character of the Classical feeling of bounds — there emerged the abstract, 
spatial, un-Classical element of the -point which from then on was regarded as a 
group of co-ordered pure numbers. The idea of magnitude and of perceivable 
dimension derived from Classical texts and Arabian traditions was destroyed 
and replaced by that of variable relation-values between positions in space. 
It is not in general realized that this amounted to the supersession of geometry, 
which thenceforward enjoyed only a fictitious existence behind a fagade of 
Classical tradition. The word "geometry" has an inextensible Apollinian 
meaning, and from the time of Descartes what is called the "new geometry" 
is made up in part of synthetic work upon the position of points in a space which 
is no longer necessarily three-dimensional (a "manifold of points"), and in 
part of analysis, in which numbers are defined through point-positions in space. 
And this replacement of lengths by positions carries with it a purely spatial, 
and no longer a material, conception of extension. 

The clearest example of this destruction of the inherited optical-finite 
geometry seems to me to be the conversion of angular functions — which in 
the Indian mathematic had been numbers (in a sense of the word that is hardly 
accessible to our minds) — into periodic functions, and their passage thence 
into an infinite number-realm, in which they become series and not the 
smallest trace remains of the Euclidean figure. In all parts of that realm 
the circle-number ir, like the Napierian base e, generates relations of all 
sorts which obliterate all the old distinctions of geometry, trigonometry and 
algebra, which are neither arithmetical nor geometrical in their nature, and 
in which no one any longer dreams of actually drawing circles or working out 
powers. 

1 Bora 1601, died 1665. Sec Ency. Brit., XI Ed., article Fermat, and references therein. — Tr. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 75 

IX 

At the moment exactly corresponding to that at which (c. 540) the Classical 
Soul in the person of Pythagoras discovered its own proper Apollinian number, 
the measurable magnitude, the Western soul in the persons of Descartes and his 
generation (Pascal, Fermat, Desargues) discovered a notion of number that was 
the child of a passionate Faustian tendency towards the infinite. Number as 
■pure magnitude inherent in the material presentness of things is paralleled by 
numbers as -pure relation, 1 and if we may characterize the Classical "world," 
the cosmos, as being based on a deep need of visible limits and composed ac- 
cordingly as a sum of material things, so we may say that our world-picture 
is an actualizing of an infinite space in which things visible appear very nearly 
as realities of a lower order, limited in the presence of the illimitable. The 
symbol of the West is an idea of which no other Culture gives even a hint, the 
idea of Function. The function is anything rather than an expansion of, it is 
complete emancipation from, any pre-existent idea of number. With the func- 
tion, not only the Euclidean geometry (and with it the common human geom- 
etry of children and laymen, based on everyday experience) but also the 
Archimedean arithmetic, ceased to have any value for the really significant 
mathematic of Western Europe. Henceforward, this consisted solely in abstract 
analysis. For Classical man geometry and arithmetic were self-contained and 
complete sciences of the highest rank, both phenomenal and both concerned 
with magnitudes that could be drawn or numbered. For us, on the contrary, 
those things are only practical auxiliaries of daily life. Addition and multi- 
plication, the two Classical methods of reckoning magnitudes, have, like their 
sister geometrical-drawing, utterly vanished in the infinity of functional 
processes. Even the power, which in the beginning denotes numerically a set 
of multiplications (products of equal magnitudes), is, through the exponential 
idea (logarithm) and its employment in complex, negative and fractional forms, 
dissociated from all connexion with magnitude and transferred to a transcendent 
relational world which the Greeks, knowing only the two positive whole- 
number powers that represent areas and volumes, were unable to approach. 

Think, for instance, of expressions like e~~ x , \/x, al m 

Every one of the significant creations which succeeded one another so 
rapidly from the Renaissance onward — imaginary and complex numbers, in- 
troduced by Cardanus as early as 1550; infinite series, established theoretically 
by Newton's great discovery of the binomial theorem in 1666; the differential 
geometry, the definite integral of Leibniz; the aggregate as a new number-unit, 
hinted at even by Descartes; new processes like those of general integrals; the 
expansion of functions into series and even into infinite series of other functions 

1 Similarly, coinage and double-entry book-keeping play analogous parts in the money-thinking 
of the Classical and the Western Cultures respectively. See Vol. II, pp. 610 et seq. 



76 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

— is a victory over the popular and sensuous number-feeling in us, a victory 
which the new mathematic had to win in order to make the new world-feeling 
actual. 

In all history, so far, there is no second example of one Culture paying to 
another Culture long extinguished such reverence and submission in matters 
of science as ours has paid to the Classical. It was very long before we found 
courage to think our proper thought. But though the wish to emulate the 
Classical was constantly present, every step of the attempt took us in reality 
further away from the imagined ideal. The history of Western knowledge is 
thus one of progressive emancipation from Classical thought, an emancipation 
never willed but enforced in the depths of the unconscious. And so the develop- 
ment of the new mathematic consists of a long, secret and finally victorious battle against 
the notion of magnitude. 1 

x 

One result of this Classicizing tendency has been to prevent us from finding 
the new notation proper to our Western number as such. The present-day sign- 
language of mathematics perverts its real content. It is principally owing to 
that tendency that the belief in numbers as magnitudes still rules to-day even 
amongst mathematicians, for is it not the base of all our written notation? 

But it is not the separate signs (e.g., at, tt, s) serving to express the func- 
tions but the function itself as unit, as element, the variable relation no longer 
capable of being optically defined, that constitutes the new number; and this 
new number should have demanded a new notation built up with entire dis- 
regard of Classical influences. Consider the difference between two equations 
(if the same word can be used of two such dissimilar things) such as 3 * + 4 * = 
5 * and x w +y w =fc w (the equation of Fermat's theorem). The first consists 
of several Classical numbers — i.e., magnitudes — but the second is one number 
of a different sort, veiled by being written down according to Euclidean- 
Archimedean tradition in the identical form of the first. In the first case, the 
sign = establishes a rigid connexion between definite and tangible magnitudes, 
but in the second it states that within a domain of variable images there exists 
a relation such that from certain alterations certain other alterations necessarily 
follow. The first equation has as its aim the specification by measurement of 
a concrete magnitude, viz., a 4< result,' * while the second has, in general, no 
result but is simply the picture and sign of a relation which for »>x (this is 
the famous Fermat problem 2 ) can probably be shown to exclude integers. A 

1 The same may be said in the matter of Roman Law (see Vol. II, pp. 96 et seq.) and of coinage 
(see Vol. II, pp. 616 et seq.). 

2 That is, " it is impossible to part a cube into two cubes, a biquadrate into two biquadrates, and 
generally any power above the square into two powers having the same exponent." Fermat claimed 
10 possess a proof of the proposition, but this has not been preserved, and no general proof has 
hitherto been obtained. — Xr. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 77 

Greek mathematician would have found it quite impossible to understand the 
purport of an operation like this, which was not meant to be "worked out." 

As applied to the letters in Fermat's equation, the nation of the unknown 
is completely misleading. In the first equation at is a magnitude, defined and 
measurable, which it is our business to compute. In the second, the word 
"defined" has no meaning at all for x> y, £, n 9 and consequently we do not 
attempt to compute their "values." Hence they are not numbers at all in the 
plastic sense but signs representing a connexion that is destitute of the hall- 
marks of magnitude, shape and unique meaning, an infinity of possible positions 
of like character, an ensemble unified and so attaining existence as a number. 
The whole equation, though written in our unfortunate notation as a plurality 
of terms, is actually one single number, x, y, % being no more numbers than 
+ and = are. 

In fact, directly the essentially anti-Hellenic idea of the irrationals is 
introduced, the foundations of the idea of number as concrete and definite 
collapse. Thenceforward, the series of such numbers is no longer a visible row 
of increasing, discrete, numbers capable of plastic embodiment but a uni- 
dimcnsional continuum in which each "cut" (in Dedekind's sense) represents 
a number. Such a number is already difficult to reconcile with Classical number, 
for the Classical mathematic knows only one number between i and 3, whereas 
for the Western the totality of such numbers is an infinite aggregate. But when 
we introduce further the imaginary (V — 1 or t) and finally the complex 
numbers (general form a + bi) 9 the linear continuum is broadened into the 
highly transcendent form of a number-body, i.e., the content of an aggregate 
of homogeneous elements in which a "cut" now stands for a number-surface 
containing an infinite aggregate of numbers of a lower * ' potency ' ' (for instance, 
all the real numbers), and there remains not a trace of number in the Classical 
and popular sense. These number-surfaces, which since Cauchy and Riemann 
have played an important part in the theory of functions, are pure thought- 
pictures. Even positive irrational number (e.g., Vi) could be conceived in a 
sort of negative fashion by Classical minds; they had, in fact, enough idea 
of it to ban it as appiyros and akoyos. But expressions of the form x + yi 
lie beyond every possibility of comprehension by Classical thought, whereas 
it is on the extension of the mathematical laws over the whole region of 
the complex numbers, within which these laws remain operative, that we 
have built up the function theory which has at last exhibited the Western 
mathematic in all purity and unity. Not until that point was reached could 
this mathematic be unreservedly brought to bear in the parallel sphere of our 
dynamic Western physics; for the Classical mathematic was fitted precisely to 
its own stereometric world of individual objects and to static mechanics as 
developed from Leucippus to Archimedes. 

The brilliant period of the Baroque mathematic — the counterpart of the 



78 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Ionian — lies substantially in the 18th Century and extends from the decisive 
discoveries of Newton and Leibniz through Euler, Lagrange, Laplace and 
D'Alembert to Gauss. Once this immense creation found wings, its rise was 
miraculous. Men hardly dared believe their senses. The age of refined scepti- 
cism witnessed the emergence of one seemingly impossible truth after another. 1 
Regarding the theory of the differential coefficient, D'Alembert had to say: 
"Go forward, and faith will come to you." Logic itself seemed to raise ob- 
jections and to prove foundations fallacious. But the goal was reached. 

This century was a very carnival of abstract and immaterial thinking, in 
which the great masters of analysis and, with them, Bach, Gluck, Haydn and 
Mozart — a small group of rare and deep intellects — revelled in the most 
refined discoveries and speculations, from which Goethe and Kant remained 
aloof; and in point of content it is exactly paralleled by the ripest century of 
the Ionic, the century of Eudoxus and Archytas (440-350) and, we may add, of 
Phidias, Polycletus, Alcamenes and the Acropolis buildings — in which the 
form-world of Classical mathematic and sculpture displayed the whole fullness 
of its possibilities, and so ended. 

And now for the first time it is possible to comprehend in full the elemental 
opposition of the Classical and the Western souls. In the whole panorama of 
history, innumerable and intense as historical relations are, we find no two 
things so fundamentally alien to one another as these. And it is because ex- 
tremes meet — because it may be there is some deep common origin behind 
their divergence — that we find in the Western Faustian soul this yearning 
effort towards the Apollinian ideal, the only alien ideal which we have loved 
and, for its power of intensely living in the pure sensuous present, have envied. 

XI 

We have already observed that, like a child, a primitive mankind acquires 
(as part of the inward experience that is the birth of the ego) an understanding 
of number and ipso facto possession of an external world referred to the ego. As 
soon as the primitive's astonished eye perceives the dawning world of ordered ex- 
tension, and the significant emerges in great outlines from the welter of mere im- 
pressions, and the irrevocable parting of the outer world from his proper, his in- 
ner, world gives form and direction to his waking life, there arises in the soul — 
instantly conscious of its loneliness — the root-feeling of longing (Sehnsucht). 
It is this that urges "becoming" towards its goal, that motives the fulfilment 
and actualizing of every inward possibility, that unfolds the idea of indi- 
vidual being. It is the child's longing, which will presently come into the 
consciousness more and more clearly as a feeling of constant direction and 

1 Thus Bishop Berkeley's Discourse addressed to an infidel mathematician (173 5) shrewdly asked 
whether the mathematician were in a position to criticize the divine for proceeding on the basis of 
faith. — Tr. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 79 

finally stand before the mature spirit as the enigma of Time — queer, tempting, 
insoluble. Suddenly, the words "past" and "future" have acquired a fateful 
meaning. 

But this longing which wells out of the bliss of the inner life is also, in 
the intimate essence of every soul, a dread as well. As all becoming moves 
towards a having-become wherein it ends, so the prime feeling of becoming — 
the longing — touches the prime feeling of having-become, the dread. In the 
present we feel a trickling-away, the past implies a passing. Here is the root 
of our eternal dread of the irrevocable, the attained, the final — our dread of 
mortality, of the world itself as a thing-become, where death is set as a frontier 
like birth — our dread in the moment when the possible is actualized, the life 
is inwardly fulfilled and consciousness stands at its goal. It is the deep world-fear 
of the child — which never leaves the higher man, the believer, the poet, the 
artist — that makes him so infinitely lonely in the presence of the alien powers 
that loom, threatening in the dawn, behind the screen of sense-phenomena. 
The element of direction, too, which is inherent in all "becoming," is felt 
owing to its inexorable irreversibility to be something alien and hostile, and the 
human will-to-understanding ever seeks to bind the inscrutable by the spell 
of a name. It is something beyond comprehension, this transformation of 
future into past, and thus time, in its contrast with space, has always a queer, 
baffling, oppressive ambiguity from which no serious man can wholly protect 
himself. 

This world-fear is assuredly the most creative of all prime feelings. Man owes 
to it the ripest and deepest forms and images, not only of his conscious inward 
life, but also of the infinitely-varied external culture which reflects this life. 
Like a secret melody that not every ear can perceive, it runs through the form- 
language of every true art-work, every inward philosophy, every important 
deed, and, although those who can perceive it in that domain are the very few, 
it lies at the root of the great problems of mathematics. Only the spiritually 
dead man of the autumnal cities — Hammurabi's Babylon, Ptolemaic Alexan- 
dria, Islamic Baghdad, Paris and Berlin to-day — only the pure intellectual, 
the sophist, the sensualist, the Darwinian, loses it or is able to evade it by 
setting up a secretless "scientific world-view" between himself and the alien. 
As the longing attaches itself to that impalpable something whose thousand- 
formed elusive manifestations are comprised in, rather than denoted by, the 
word "time," so the other prime feeling, dread, finds its expression in the 
intellectual, understandable, outlinable symbols of extension; and thus we find 
that every Culture is aware (each in its own special way) of an opposition of 
time and space, of direction and extension, the former underlying the latter as 
becoming precedes having-become. It is the longing that underlies the dread, 
becomes the dread, and not vice versa. The one is not subject to the intellect, 
the other is its servant. The rdle of the one is purely to experience, that of the 



80 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

other purely to know (erleben, erkennen). In the Christian language, the 
opposition of the two world-feelings is expressed by: "Fear God and love 
Him." 

In the soul of all primitive mankind, just as in that of earliest childhood, 
there is something which impels it to find means of dealing with the alien 
powers of the extension-world that assert themselves, inexorable, in and 
through space. To bind, to bridle, to placate, to "know" are all, in the last 
analysis, the same thing. In the mysticism of all primitive periods, to know 
God means to conjure him, to make him favourable, to appropriate him inwardly. 
This is achieved, principally, by means of a word, the Name — the "nomen" 
which designates and calls up the "numen " — and also by ritual practices of 
secret potency; and the subtlest, as well as the most powerful, form of this 
defence is causal and systematic knowledge, delimitation by label and number. 
In this respect man only becomes wholly man when he has acquired language. 
When cognition has ripened to the point of words, the original chaos of im- 
pressions necessarily transforms itself into a "Nature" that has laws and must 
obey them, and the world-in-itself becomes a world-for-us. 1 

The world-fear is stilled when an intellectual form-language hammers out 
brazen vessels in which the mysterious is captured and made comprehensible. 
This is the idea of "taboo" 2 which plays a decisive part in the spiritual life of 
all primitive men, though the original content of the word lies so far from us 
that it is incapable of translation into any ripe culture-language. Blind terror, 
religious awe, deep loneliness, melancholy, hate, obscure impulses to draw near, 
to be merged, to escape — all those formed feelings of mature souls are in the 
childish condition blurred in a monotonous indecision. The two senses of the 
word "conjure" (verschworen), meaning to bind and to implore at once, may 
serve to make clear the sense of the mystical process by which for primitive 
man the formidable alien becomes "taboo." Reverent awe before that which 
is independent of one's self, things ordained and fixed by law, the alien powers 
of the world, is the source from which the elementary formative acts, one and 
all, spring. In early times this feeling is actualized in ornament, in laborious 
ceremonies and rites, and the rigid laws of primitive intercourse. At the zeniths 
of the great Cultures those formations, though retaining inwardly the mark of 
their origin, the characteristic of binding and conjuring, have become the 
complete form-worlds of the various arts and of religious, scientific and, above 
all, mathematical thought. The method common to all — the only way of 
actualizing itself that the soul knows — is the symbolizing of extension, of space 
or of things; and we find it alike in the conceptions of absolute space that per- 
vade Newtonian physics, Gothic cathedral-interiors and Moorish mosques, and 

1 From the savage conjuror with his naming-magic to the modern scientist who subjects thing* 
by attaching technical labels to them, the form has in no wise changed. See Vol. II, pp. 116 ct seq., 
323. et seq. 

8 Sec Vol. II, pp. 137 ct seq. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 8x 

the atmospheric infinity of Rembrandt's paintings and again the dark tone- 
worlds of Beethoven's quartets; in the regular polyhedrons of Euclid, the 
Parthenon sculptures and the pyramids of Old Egypt, the Nirvana of Buddha, 
the aloofness of court-customs under Sesostris, Justinian I and Louis XIV, in 
the God-idea of an iEschylus, a Plotinus, a Dante; and in the world-embracing 
spatial energy of modern technics. 

XII 

To return to mathematics. In the Classical world the starting-point of 
every formative act was, as we have seen, the ordering of the "become," in so 
far as this was present, visible, measurable and numerable. The Western, 
Gothic, form-feeling on the contrary is that of an unrestrained, strong-willed 
far-ranging soul, and its chosen badge is pure, imperceptible, unlimited space. 
But we must not be led into regarding such symbols as unconditional. On the 
contrary, they are strictly conditional, though apt to be taken as having iden- 
tical essence and validity. Our universe of infinite space, whose existence, for 
us, goes without saying, simply does not exist for Classical man. It is not even 
capable of being presented to him. On the other hand, the Hellenic cosmos, 
which is (as we might have discovered long ago) entirely foreign to our way 
of thinking, was for the Hellene something self-evident. The fact is that the 
infinite space of our physics is a form of very numerous and extremely com- 
plicated elements tacitly assumed, which have come into being only as the 
copy and expression of our soul, and are actual, necessary and natural only for 
our type of waking life. The simple notions are always the most difficult. They 
are simple, in that they comprise a vast deal that not only is incapable of being 
exhibited in words but does not even need to be stated, because for men of the 
-particular group it is anchored in the intuition; and they are difficult because for 
all alien men their real content is ipso facto quite inaccessible. Such a notion, 
at once simple and difficult, is our specifically Western meaning of the word 
"space." The whole of our mathematic from Descartes onward is devoted to 
the theoretical interpretation of this great and wholly religious symbol. The 
aim of all our physics since Galileo is identical; but in the Classical mathe- 
matics and physics the content of this word is simply not known. 

Here, too, Classical names, inherited from the literature of Greece and 
retained in use, have veiled the realities. Geometry means the art of measuring, 
arithmetic the art of numbering. The mathematic of the West has long ceased 
to have anything to do with both these forms of defining, but it has not man- 
aged to find new names for its own elements — for the word "analysis" is 
hopelessly inadequate. 

The beginning and end of the Classical mathematic is consideration of the 
properties of individual bodies and their boundary-surfaces; thus indirectly 
taking in conic sections and higher curves. We, on the other hand, at bottom 



8z THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

know only the abstract space-element of the point, which can neither be seen, 
nor measured, nor yet named, but represents simply a centre of reference. The 
straight line, for the Greeks a measurable edge, is for us an infinite continuum 
of points. Leibniz illustrates his infinitesimal principle by presenting the 
straight line as one limiting case and the point as the other limiting case of a 
circle having infinitely great or infinitely little radius. But for the Greek the 
circle is a -plane and the problem that interested him was that of bringing it 
into a commensurable condition. Thus the squaring of the circle became for the 
Classical intellect the supreme problem of the finite. The deepest problem of world- 
form seemed to it to be to alter surfaces bounded by curved lines, without 
change of magnitude, into rectangles and so to render them measureable. For 
us, on the other hand, it has become the usual, and not specially significant, 
practice to represent the number t by algebraic means, regardless of any geo- 
metrical image. 

The Classical mathematician knows only what he sees and grasps. Where 
definite and defining visibility — the domain of his thought — ceases, his science 
comes to an end. The Western mathematician, as soon as he has quite shaken off 
the trammels of Classical prejudice, goes off into a wholly abstract region of 
infinitely numerous "manifolds" of n (no longer 3) dimensions, in which his 
so-called geometry always can and generally must do without every common- 
place aid. When Classical man turns to artistic expressions of his form-feeling, 
he tries with marble and bronze to give the dancing or the wrestling human 
form that pose and attitude in which surfaces and contours have all attainable 
proportion and meaning. But the true artist of the West shuts his eyes and 
loses himself in the realm of bodiless music, in which harmony and polyphony 
bring him to images of utter "beyondness" that transcend all possibilities of 
visual definition. One need only think of the meanings of the word "figure" 
as used respectively by the Greek sculptor and the Northern contrapuntist, and 
the opposition of the two worlds, the two mathematics, is immediately pre- 
sented. The Greek methematicians ever use the word <rw/*a for their entities, 
just as the Greek lawyers used it for persons as distinct from things (cknara 
Kal irp&y jiara: persona et res'). 

Classical number, integral and corporeal, therefore inevitably seeks to relate 
itself with the birth of bodily man, the <rw/ta. The number 1 is hardly yet 
conceived of as actual number but rather as hpxh, the prime stuff of the 
number-series, the origin of all true numbers and therefore all magnitudes, 
measures and materiality (Dinglichkeit). In the group of the Pythagoreans 
(the date does not matter) its figured-sign was also the symbol of the mother- 
womb, the origin of all life. The digit 2., the first true number, which doubles 
the 1, was therefore correlated with the male principle and given the sign of 
the phallus. And, finally, 3, the "holy number" of the Pythagoreans, denoted 
the act of union between man and woman, the act of propagation — the erotic 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 83 

suggestion in adding and multiplying (the only two processes of increasing, of 
propagating, magnitude useful to Classical man) is easily seen — and its sign was 
the combination of the two first. Now, all this throws quite a new light upon 
the legends previously alluded to, concerning the sacrilege of disclosing the 
irrational. The irrational — in our language the employment of unending 
decimal fractions — implied the destruction of an organic and corporeal and 
reproductive order that the gods had laid down. There is no doubt that the 
Pythagorean reforms of the Classical religion were themselves based upon the 
immemorial Demeter-cult. Demeter, Gasa, is akin to Mother Earth. There is 
a deep relation between the honour paid to her and this exalted conception of 
the numbers. 

Thus, inevitably, the Classical became by degrees the Culture of the small. 
The Apollinian soul had tried to tie down the meaning of things-become 
by means of the principle of visible limits; its taboo was focused upon the 
immediately-present and proximate alien. What was far away, invisible, was 
ipso facto "not there." The Greek and the Roman alike sacrificed to the gods of 
the place in which he happened to stay or reside; all other deities were outside 
the range of vision. Just as the Greek tongue — again and again we shall note 
the mighty symbolism of such language-phenomena — possessed no word for 
space, so the Greek himself was destitute of our feeling of landscape, horizons, 
outlooks, distances, clouds, and of the idea of the far-spread fatherland em- 
bracing the great nation. Home, for Classical man, is what he can see from the 
citadel of his native town and no more. All that lay beyond the visual range 
of this political atom was alien, and hostile to boot; beyond that narrow range, 
fear set in at once, and hence the appalling bitterness with which these petty- 
towns strove to destroy one another. The Polis is the smallest of all conceiv- 
able state-forms, and its policy is frankly short-range, therein differing in the 
extreme from our own cabinet-diplomacy which is the policy of the unlimited. 
Similarly, the Classical temple, which can be taken in in one glance, is the 
smallest of all first-rate architectural forms. Classical geometry from Archytas 
to Euclid — like the school geometry of to-day which is still dominated by it 
— concerned itself with small, manageable figures and bodies, and therefore 
remained unaware of the difficulties that arise in establishing figures of astro- 
nomical dimensions, which in many cases are not amenable to Euclidean geome- 
try. 1 Otherwise the subtle Attic spirit would almost surely have arrived at 
some notion of the problems of non-Euclidean geometry, for its criticism of the 
well-known "parallel" axiom, 2 the doubtfulness of which soon aroused oppo- 

1 A beginning is now being made with the application of non-Euclidean geometries to astron- 
omy. The hypothesis of curved space, closed but without limits, filled by the system of fixed stars 
on a radius of about 470,000,000 earth-distances, would lead to the hypothesis of a counter-image of 
the sun which to us appears as a star of medium brilliancy. (See translator's footnote, p. 331.) 

8 That only one parallel to a given straight line is possible through a given point — a proposi- 
tion that is incapable of proof. 



84 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

sition yet could not in any way be elucidated, brought it very close indeed to 
the decisive discovery. The Classical mind as unquestioningly devoted and 
limited itself to the study of the small and the near as ours has to that of the 
infinite and ultra-visual. All the mathematical ideas that the West found for 
itself or borrowed from others were automatically subjected to the form- 
language of the Infinitesimal — and that long before the actual Differential 
Calculus was discovered. Arabian algebra, Indian trigonometry, Classical 
mechanics were incorporated as a matter of course in analysis. Even the most 
"self-evident" propositions of elementary arithmetic such asixi =4 be- 
come, when considered analytically, problems, and the solution of these prob- 
lems was only made possible by deductions from the Theory of Aggregates, and 
is in many points still unaccomplished. Plato and his age would have looked 
upon this sort of thing not only as a hallucination but also as evidence of an 
utterly nonmathematical mind. In a certain measure, geometry may be treated 
algebraically and algebra geometrically, that is, the eye may be switched off 
or it may be allowed to govern. We take the first alternative, the Greeks the 
second. Archimedes, in his beautiful management of spirals, touches upon cer- 
tain general facts that are also fundamentals in Leibniz's method of the definite 
integral; but his processes, for all their superficial appearance of modernity, are 
subordinated to stereometric principles; in like case, an Indian mathematician 
would naturally have found some trigonometrical formulation. 1 

XIII 

From this fundamental opposition of Classical and Western numbers there 
arises an equally radical difference in the relationship of element to element in 
each of these number-worlds. The nexus of magnitudes is called proportion, that 
of relations is comprised in the notion of function. The significance of these two 
words is not confined to mathematics proper; they are of high importance also 
in the allied arts of sculpture and music. Quite apart from the r61e of propor- 
tion in ordering the parts of the individual statue, the typically Classical art- 
forms of the statue, the relief, and the fresco, admit enlargements and reductions of 
scale — words that in music have no meaning at all — as we see in the art of the 
gems, in which the subjects are essentially reductions from life-sized originals. 
In the domain of Function, on the contrary, it is the idea of transformation of 
groups that is of decisive importance, and the musician will readily agree that 
similar ideas play an essential part in modern composition-theory. I need only 
allude to one of the most elegant orchestral forms of the 18th Century, the 
Tema con Variazioni. 

All proportion assumes the constancy, all transformation the variability of 
the constituents. Compare, for instance, the congruence theorems of Euclid, 

1 It is impossible to say, with certainty, how much of the Indian mathematics that we possess 
is old, i.e., before Buddha. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 85 

the proof of which depends in fact on the assumed ratio 1:1, with the modern 
deduction of the same by means of angular functions. 



XIV 



The Alpha and Omega of the Classical mathematic is construction (which in 
the broad sense includes elementary arithmetic), that is, the production of a 
single visually-present figure. The chisel, in this second sculptural art, is the 
compass. On the other hand, in function-research, where the object is not a 
result of the magnitude sort but a discussion of general formal possibilities, the 
way of working is best described as a sort of composition-procedure closely 
analogous to the musical; and in fact, a great number of the ideas met with in 
the theory of music (key, phrasing, chromatics, for instance) can be directly 
employed in physics, and it is at least arguable that many relations would be 
clarified by so doing. 

Every construction affirms, and every operation denies appearances, in that the 
one works out that which is optically given and the other dissolves it. And so 
we meet with yet another contrast between the two kinds of mathematic; the 
Classical mathematic of small things deals with the concrete individual instance 
and produces a once-for-all construction, while the mathematic of the infinite 
handles whole classes of formal possibilities, group of functions, operations, 
equations, curves, and does so with an eye, not to any result they may have, 
but to their course. And so for the last two centuries — though present-day 
mathematicians hardly realize the fact — there has been growing up the idea of 
a general morphology of mathematical operations, which we are justified in regarding 
as the real meaning of modern mathematics as a whole. All this, as we shall 
perceive more and more clearly, is one of the manifestations of a general ten- 
dency inherent in the Western intellect, proper to the Faustian spirit and 
Culture and found in no other. The great majority of the problems which 
occupy our mathematic, and are regarded as "our" problems in the same sense 
as the squaring of the circle was the Greeks', — e.g., the investigation of con- 
vergence in infinite series (Cauchy) and the transformation of elliptic and 
algebraic integrals into multiply-periodic functions (Abel, Gauss) — would 
probably have seemed to the Ancients, who strove for simple and definite 
quantitative results, to be an exhibition of rather abstruse virtuosity. And 
so indeed the popular mind regards them even to-day. There is nothing 
less "popular" than the modern mathematic, and it too contains its sym- 
bolism of the infinitely far, of distance. All the great works of the West, 
from the "Divina Commedia" to "Parsifal," are unpopular, whereas every- 
thing Classical from Homer to the Altar of Pergamum was popular in the 
highest degree. 



86 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

xv 

Thus, finally, the whole content of Western number-thought centres itself 
upon the historic limit-problem of the Faustian mathematic, the key which opens 
the way to the Infinite, that Faustian infinite which is so different from the 
infinity of Arabian and Indian world-ideas. Whatever the guise — infinite 
series, curves or functions — in which number appears in the particular case, 
the essence of it is the theory of the limit. 1 This limit is the absolute opposite of 
the limit which (without being so called) figures in the Classical problem of 
the quadrature of the circle. Right into the 18th Century, Euclidean popular 
prepossessions obscured the real meaning of the differential principle. The idea 
of infinitely small quantities lay, so to say, ready to hand, and however skil- 
fully they were handled, there was bound to remain a trace of the Classical 
constancy, the semblance of magnitude, about them, though Euclid would never 
have known them or admitted them as such. Thus, zero is a constant, a whole 
number in the linear continuum between +i and — i ; and it was a great hindrance 
to Euler in his analytical researches that, like many after him, he treated the 
differentials as zero. Only in the 19th Century was this relic of Classical 
number-feeling finally removed and the Infinitesimal Calculus made logically 
secure by Cauchy's definitive elucidation of the limit-idea; only the intellectual 
step from the "infinitely small quantity" to the "lower limit of every possible 
finite magnitude" brought out the conception of a variable number which 
oscillates beneath any assignable number that is not zero. A number of this 
sort has ceased to possess any character of magnitude whatever: the limit, as 
thus finally presented by theory, is no longer that which is approximated to, 
but the approximation, the process, the operation itself. It is not a state, but a relation. 
And so in this decisive problem of our mathematic, we are suddenly made to 
see how historical is the constitution of the Western soul. 2 

XVI 

The liberation of geometry from the visual, and of algebra from the notion 
of magnitude, and the union of both, beybnd all elementary limitations of 
drawing and counting, in the great structure of function-theory — this was the 

1 The technical difference (in German usage) between Gren%, and Gtemyoert is in most cases 
ignored in this translation as it is on.y the underlying conception of " number " common to both that 
concerns us. Grenx. is the "limit** strictly speaking, i.e., the number a to which the terms a lt a^, 
^s. ... of a particular series approximate more and more closely, till nearer to a than any assignable 
number whatever. The Grenqtvert of a function, on the other hand, is the "limit " of the value which 
the function takes for a given value a of the variable x. These methods of reasoning and their deriva- 
tives enable solutions to be obtained for series such as [ — -, ) [ — , ) ( — ) . . . ( — ) or functions 

x(xx _ x ) \ m 1 \ m I W/ WV 

such as y = ; — ^— ^ — ^— r- where x is infinite or indefinite. — Tr. 
+ iX*-3) 

2 "Function, rightly understood, is existence considered as an activity" (Goethe). Cf. Vol. II, 
p. 618, for functional money. 



MEANING OF NUMBERS* 87 

grand course of Western number-thought. The constant number of the Classical 
mathematic was dissolved into the variable. Geometry became analytical and 
dissolved all concrete forms, replacing the mathematical bodies from which the 
rigid geometrical values had been obtained, by abstract spatial relations which 
in the end ceased to have any application at all to sense-present phenomena. 
It began by substituting for Euclid's optical figures geometrical loci referred to a 
co-ordinate system of arbitrarily chosen "origin," and reducing the postulated 
objectiveness of existence of the geometrical object to the one condition that 
during the operation (which itself was one of equating and not of measurement) 
the selected co-ordinate system should not be changed. But these co-ordinates 
immediately came to be regarded as values pure and simple, serving not so much 
to determine as to represent and replace the position of points as space-elements. 
Number, the boundary of things-become, was represented, not as before pictori- 
ally by a figure, but symbolically by an equation. ' * Geometry * * altered its mean- 
ing; the co-ordinate system as a picturing disappeared and the point became an 
entirely abstract number-group. In architecture, we find this inward transfor- 
mation of Renaissance into Baroque through the innovations of Michael Angelo 
and Vignola. Visually pure lines became, in palace and church fagades as in 
mathematics, ineffectual. In place of the clear co-ordinates that we have in 
Romano-Florentine colonnading and storeying, the "infinitesimal" appears in 
the graceful flow of elements, the scrollwork, the cartouches. The construc- 
tive dissolves in the wealth of the decorative — in mathematical language, the 
functional. Columns and pilasters, assembled in groups and clusters, break up 
the fagades, gather and disperse again restlessly. The flat surfaces of wall, roof, 
storey melt into a wealth of stucco work and ornaments, vanish and break into 
a play of light and shade. The light itself, as it is made to play upon the form- 
world of mature Baroque — viz., the period from Bernini (1650) to the Rococo 
of Dresden, Vienna and Paris — has become an essentially musical element. 
The Dresden Zwinger l is a sinfonia. Along with 18th Century mathematics, 
18th Century architecture develops into a form-world of musical characters. 

XVII 

This mathematics of ours was bound in due course to reach the point at 
which not merely the limits of artificial geometrical form but the limits of the 
visual itself were felt by theory and by the soul alike as limits indeed, as ob- 
stacles to the unreserved expression of inward possibilities — in other words, 
the point at which the ideal of transcendent extension came into fundamental 
conflict with the limitations of immediate perception. The Classical soul, with 
the entire abdication of Platonic and Stoic drapa££a, submitted to the sensuous 
and (as the erotic under-meaning of the Pythagorean numbers shows) it rather 
felt than emitted its great symbols. Of transcending the corporeal here-and-now 
1 Built for August n, in 171 1, as barbican or fore-building for a projected palace. — Tr. 



88 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

it was quite incapable. But whereas number, as conceived by a Pythagorean, 
exhibited the essence of individual and discrete data in "Nature" Descartes 
and his successors looked upon number as something to be conquered, to be 
wrung out, an abstract relation royally indifferent to all phenomenal support 
and capable of holding its own against "Nature" on all occasions. The 
will-to-power (to use Nietzsche's great formula) that from the earliest Gothic 
of the Eddas, the Cathedrals and Crusades, and even from the old conquer- 
ing Goths and Vikings, has distinguished the attitude of the Northern 
soul to its world, appears also in the sense-transcending energy, the dynamic 
of Western number. In the Apollinian mathematic the intellect is the serv- 
ant of the eye, in the Faustian its master. Mathematical, " absolute* ' space, 
we see then, is utterly un-Classical, and from the first, although mathematicians 
with their reverence for the Hellenic tradition did not dare to observe the fact, 
it was something different from the indefinite spaciousness of daily experience 
and customary painting, the a priori space of Kant which seemed so unambig- 
uous and sure a concept. It is a pure abstract, an ideal and unfulfillable postulate 
of a soul which is ever less and less satisfied with sensuous means of expression 
and in the end passionately brushes them aside. The inner eye has awakened. 

And then, for the first time, those who thought deeply were obliged to 
see that the Euclidean geometry, which is the true and only geometry of the 
simple of all ages, is when regarded from the higher standpoint nothing but a 
hypothesis, the general validity of which, since Gauss, we know it to be quite 
impossible to prove in the face of other and perfectly non-perceptual geometries. 
The critical proposition of this geometry, Euclid's axiom of parallels, is an 
assertion, for which we are quite at liberty to substitute another assertion. We 
may assert, in fact, that through a given point, no parallels, or two, or many 
parallels may be drawn to a given straight line, and all these assumptions lead 
to completely irreproachable geometries of three dimensions, which can be 
employed in physics and even in astronomy, and are in some cases preferable to 
the Euclidean. 

Even the simple axiom that extension is boundless (boundlessness, since 
Riemann and the theory of curved space, is to be distinguished from endlessness) 
at once contradicts the essential character of all immediate perception, in that 
the latter depends upon the existence of light-resistances and ipso facto has 
material bounds. But abstract principles of boundary can be imagined which 
transcend, in an entirely new sense, the possibilities of optical definition. For 
the deep thinker, there exists even in the Cartesian geometry the tendency to 
get beyond the three dimensions of experiential space, regarded as an unnecessary 
restriction on the symbolism of number. And although it was not till about 
1800 that the notion of multi-dimensional space (it is a pity that no better word 
was found) provided analysis with broader foundations, the real first step was 
taken at the moment when powers — that is, really, logarithms — were re- 



MEANING OF NUMBERS 89 

leased from their original relation with sensually realizable surfaces and solids 
and, through the employment of irrational and complex exponents, brought 
within the realm of function as perfectly general relation-values. It will be 
admitted by everyone who understands anything of mathematical reasoning 
that directly we passed from the notion of a 3 as a natural maximum to that 
of a w , the unconditional necessity of three-dimensional space was done away 
with. 

Once the space-element or point had lost its last persistent relic of visualness 
and, instead of being represented to the eye as a cut in co-ordinate lines, was 
defined as a group of three independent numbers, there was no longer any 
inherent objection to replacing the number 3 by the general number n. The 
notion of dimension was radically changed. It was no longer a matter of 
treating the properties of a point metrically with reference to its position in a 
visible system, but of representing the entirely abstract properties of a number- 
group by means of any dimensions that we please. The number-group — con- 
sisting of n independent ordered elements — is an image of the point and it is 
called a point. Similarly, an equation logically arrived therefrom is called a 
plane and is the image of a plane. And the aggregate of all points of n dimen- 
sions is called an ^-dimensional space. 1 In these transcendent space-worlds, 
which are remote from every sort of sensualism, lie the relations which it is the 
business of analysis to investigate and which are found to be consistently in 
agreement with the data of experimental physics. This space of higher degree 
is a symbol which is through-and-through the peculiar property of the Western 
mind. That mind alone has attempted, and successfully too, to capture the 
"become" and the extended in these forms, to conjure and bind — to "know" 
— the alien by this kind of appropriation or taboo. Not until such spheres 
of number-thought are reached, and not for any men but the few who have 
reached them, do such imaginings as systems of hypercomplex numbers (e.g., 
the quaternions of the calculus of vectors) and apparently quite meaningless 
symbols like 00 w acquire the character of something actual. And here if any- 
where it must be understood that actuality is not only sensual actuality. The 
spiritual is in no wise limited to perception-forms for the actualizing of its idea. 

XVIII 

From this grand intuition of symbolic space-worlds came the last and con- 
clusive creation of Western mathematic — the expansion and subtilizing of the 
function theory in that of group. Groups are aggregates or sets of homogeneous 
mathematical images — e.g., the totality of all differential equations of a cer- 

1 From the standpoint of the theory of "aggregates" (or "sets of points"), a well-ordered set 
of points, irrespective of the dimension figure, is called a corpus; and thus an aggregate of n — i 
dimensions is considered, relatively to one of n dimensions, as a surface. Thus the limit (wall, edge) 
of an " aggregate" represents an aggregate of lower " potentiality." 



jo THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tain type — which in structure and ordering are analogous to the Dedekind 
number-bodies. Here are worlds, we feel, of perfectly new numbers, which are 
nevertheless not utterly sense-transcendent for the inner eye of the adept; and 
the problem now is to discover in those vast abstract form-systems certain 
elements which, relatively to a particular group of operations (viz., of trans- 
formations of the system), remain unaffected thereby, that is, possess invariance. 
In mathematical language, the problem, as stated generally by Klein, is — 
given an ^-dimensional manifold ("space") and a group of transformations, it 
is required to examine the forms belonging to the manifold in respect of such 
properties as are not altered by transformation of the group. 

And with this culmination our Western mathematic, having exhausted 
every inward possibility and fulfilled its destiny as the copy and purest expression 
of the idea of the Faustian soul, closes its development in the same way as the 
mathematic of the Classical Culture concluded in the third century. Both those 
sciences (the only ones of which the organic structure can even to-day be 
examined historically) arose out of a wholly new idea of number, in the one 
case Pythagoras's, in the other Descartes'. Both, expanding in all beauty, 
reached their maturity one hundred years later; and both, after flourishing for 
three centuries, completed the structure of their ideas at the same moment as the 
Cultures to which they respectively belonged passed over into the phase of 
megalopolitan Civilization. The deep significance of this interdependence will 
be made clear in due course. It is enough for the moment that for us the time 
of the great mathematicians is past. Our tasks to-day are those of preserving, 
rounding off, refining, selection — in place of big dynamic creation, the same 
clever detail-work which characterized the Alexandrian mathematic of late 
Hellenism. 

A historical paradigm will make this clearer. 

Classical Western 
I. Conception of a new number 

About 540 b.c. About 1630 a.d. 

Number as magnitude Number as relation (Descartes, Pascal, 

(Pythagoreans) Fermat). (Newton, Leibniz, 1670) 

(About 470, sculpture prevails over fresco (About 1670, music prevails over oil 

painting) painting) 

2.. Zenith of systematic development 

450-350 1750-1800 

Plato, Archytas, Eudoxus Euler, Lagrange, Laplace 

(Phidias, Praxiteles) (Gluck, Haydn, Mozart) 

3. Inward completion and conclusion of the figure-world 

300-2.50 After i8cx> 

Euclid, Apollonius, Archimedes Gauss, Cauchy, Riemann 
(Lysippus, Leochares) (Beethoven) 



CHAPTER III 
THE PROBLEM OF WORLD-HISTORY 

I 
PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 



CHAPTER III 

THE PROBLEM OF WORLD-HISTORY 

I 

PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 



Now, at last, it is possible to take the decisive step of sketching an image of 
history that is independent of the accident of standpoint, of the period in which 
this or that observer lives — independent too of the personality of the observer 
himself, who as an interested member of his own Culture is tempted, by its 
religious, intellectual, political and social tendencies, to order the material of 
history according to a perspective that is limited as to both space and time, and 
to fashion arbitrary forms into which the superficies of history can be forced 
but which are entirely alien to its inner content. 

What has been missing, till now, is detachment from the objects considered 
(die Distanz vom Gegenstande). In respect of Nature, this detachment has 
long ago been attained, though of course it was relatively easy of attainment, 
since the physicist can obviously systematize the mechanical-causal picture of 
his world as impersonally as though he himself did not exist in it. 

It is quite possible, however, to do the same as regards the form-world of 
History. We have merely been unaware of the possibility. The modern his- 
torian, in the very act of priding himself on his "objectivity," naively and 
unconsciously reveals his prepossessions. For this reason it is quite legitimate 
to say — and it will infallibly be said some day — that so far a genuinely 
Faustian treatment of history has been entirely lacking. By such a treatment 
is meant one that has enough detachment to admit that any "present" is only 
such with reference to a particular generation of men; that the number of genera- 
tions is infinite, and that the proper present must therefore be regarded just as 
something infinitely distant and alien is regarded, and treated as an interval of 
time neither more nor less significant in the whole picture of History than 
others. Such a treatment will employ no distorting modulus of personal ideals, 
set no personal origin of co-ordinates, be influenced by none of the personal 
hopes and fears and other inward impulses which count for so much in practical 
life; and such a detachment will — to use the words of Nietzsche (who, be 
it said, was far from possessing enough of it himself) — enable one to view 
the whole fact of Man from an immense distance, to regard the individual 

93 



94 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Cultures, one's own included, as one regards the range of mountain peaks along 
a horizon. 

Once again, therefore, there was an act like the act of Copernicus to be 
accomplished, an act of emancipation from the evident present in the name of 
infinity. This the Western soul achieved in the domain of Nature long ago, 
when it passed from the Ptolemaic world-system to that which is alone valid for 
it to-day, and treats the position of the observer on one particular planet as 
accidental instead of normative. 

A similar emancipation of world-history from the accidental standpoint, 
the perpetually re-defined "modern period," is both possible and necessary. 
It is true that the 19th Century a.d. seems to us infinitely fuller and more im- 
portant than, say, the 19th Century b.c; but the moon, too, seems to us bigger 
than Jupiter or Saturn. The physicist has long ago freed himself from pre- 
possessions as to relative distance, the historian not so. We permit ourselves 
to consider the Culture of the Greeks as an "ancient" related to our own 
"modern." Were they in their turn "modern" in relation to the finished and 
historically mature Egyptians of the court of the great Thuthmosis who lived 
a millennium before Homer? For us, the events which took place between 1500 
and 1800 on the soil of Western Europe constitute the most important third of 
"world "-history; for the Chinese historian, on the contrary, who looks back 
on and judges by 4000 years of Chinese history, those centuries generally are a 
brief and unimportant episode, infinitely less significant than the centuries of 
the Han dynasty (106 b.c. to 210 a.d.), which in bis "world"-history are 
epoch-making. 

To liberate History, then, from that thraldom to the observers' prejudices 
which in our own case has made of it nothing more than a record of a partial 
past leading up to an accidental present, with the ideals and interests of that 
present as criteria of the achievement and possibility, is the object of all that 
follows. 

n 

Nature and History l are the opposite extreme terms of man's range of pos- 
sibilities,whereby he is enabled to order the actualities about him as a picture of 
the world. An actuality is Nature in so far as it assigns things-becoming their 
place as things-become, and History in so far as it orders things-become with 
reference to their becoming. An actuality as an evocation of mind is contem- 
plated, and as an assurance of the senses is critically comprehended, the first 
being exemplified in the worlds of Plato, Rembrandt, Goethe and Beethoven, 
the second in the worlds of Parmenides, Descartes, Kant and Newton. Cogni- 
tion in the strict sense of the word is that act of experience of which the com- 
pleted issue is called "Nature." The cognized and "Nature" are one and the 

1 See p. 55, also Vol. II, pp. 15 ct seq. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 95 

same. The symbol of mathematical number has shown us that the aggregate of 
things cognized is the same as the world of things mechanically defined, things 
correct once and for all, things brought under law. Nature is the sum of the law- 
imposed necessities. There are only laws of Nature. No physicist who under- 
stands his duty would wish to transcend these limits. His task is to establish 
an ordered code which not only includes all the laws that he can find in the 
picture of Nature that is proper to himself but, further, represents that picture 
exhaustively and without remainder. 

Contemplation or vision (Anschauen), on the other hand — I may recall 
Goethe's words: "vision is to be carefully distinguished from seeing" — , is that 
act of experience which is itself history because it is itself a fulfilling. That which 
has been lived is that which has happened, and it is history. (Erlebtes ist 
Geschehenes, ist Geschichte.) 

Every happening is unique and incapable of being repeated. It carries the 
hall-mark of Direction ("Time"), of irreversibility. That which has happened 
is thenceforth counted with the become and not with the becoming, with the 
stiffened and not the living, and belongs beyond recall to the past. Our feeling 
of world-fear has its sources here. Everything cognized, on the contrary, is 
timeless, neither past nor future but simply "there," and consequently per- 
manently valid, as indeed the very constitution of natural law requires that it 
should be. Law and the domain of law are anti-historical. They exclude inci- 
dent and casuality. The laws of nature are forms of rigorous and therefore 
inorganic necessity. It becomes easy to see why mathematics, as the ordering 
of things-become by number, is always and exclusively associated with laws and 
causality. 

Becoming has no number. We can count, measure, dissect only the lifeless 
and so much of the living as can be dissociated from livingness. Pure becoming, 
pure life, is in this sense incapable of being bounded. It lies beyond the domain 
of cause and effect, law and measure. No deep and pure historical research 
seeks for conformities with causal laws — or, if it does so, it does not under- 
stand its own essence. 

At the same time, history as positively treated is not pure becoming: it is 
an image, a world-form radiated from the waking consciousness of the his- 
torian, in which the becoming dominates the become. The possibility of ex- 
tracting results of any sort by scientific methods depends upon the proportion of 
things-become present in the subject treated, and by hypothesis there is in this 
case a defect of them; the higher the proportion is, the more mechanical, reason- 
able, causal, history is made to appear. Even Goethe's "living nature," utterly 
unmathematical world-picture as it was, contained enough of the dead and 
stiffened to allow him to treat at least his foreground scientifically. But when 
this content of things-become dwindles to very little, then history becomes 
approximately pure becoming, and contemplation and vision become an ex- 



g6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

perience which can only be rendered in forms of art. That which Dante saw 
before his spiritual eyes as the destiny of the world, he could not possibly have 
arrived at by ways of science, any more than Goethe could have attained by 
these ways to what he saw in the great moments of his "Faust" studies, any 
more than Plotinus and Giordano Bruno could have distilled their visions from 
researches. This contrast lies at the root of all dispute regarding the inner form 
of history. In the presence of the same object or corpus of facts, every observer 
according to his own disposition has a different impression of the whole, and 
this impression, intangible and incommunicable, underlies his judgment and gives 
it its personal colour. The degree in which things-become are taken in differs 
from man to man, which is quite enough in itself to show that they can never 
agree as to task or method. Each accuses the other of a deficiency of "clear 
thinking," and yet the something that is expressed by this phrase is some- 
thing not built with hands, not implying superiority or a priority of degree 
but necessary difference of kind. The same applies to all natural sciences. 

Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that at bottom the wish to 
write history scientifically involves a contradiction. True science reaches just as 
far as the notions of truth and falsity have validity: this applies to mathematics 
and it applies also to the science of historical spade-work, viz., the collection, 
ordering and sifting of material. But real historical vision (which only begins 
at this point) belongs to the domain of significances, in which the crucial words 
are not "correct" and "erroneous," but "deep" and "shallow." The true 
physicist is not deep, but keen: it is only when he leaves the domain of working 
hypotheses and brushes against the final things that he can be deep, but at this 
stage he is already a metaphysician. Nature is to be handled scientifically, 
History poetically. Old Leopold von Ranke is credited with the remark that, 
after all, Scott's "Quentin Durward" was the true history-writing. And so it 
is: the advantage of a good history book is that it enables the reader to be his 
own Scott. 

On the other hand, within the very realm of numbers and exact knowledge 
there is that which Goethe called "living Nature," an immediate vision of 
pure becoming and self-shaping, in fact, history as above defined. Goethe's 
world was, in the first instance, an organism, an existence, and it is easy there- 
fore to see why his researches, even when superficially of a physical kind, do 
not make numbers, or laws, or causality captured in formulas, or dissection of 
any sort their object, but are morphology in the highest sense of the word; and 
why his work neither uses nor needs to use the specifically Western and un- 
Classical means of causal treatment, metrical experiment. His treatment of the 
Earth's crust is invariably geology, and never mineralogy, which he called the 
science of something dead. * 

Let it be said, once more, that there are no exact boundaries set between the 
two kinds of world-notion. However great the contrast between becoming and 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 97 

the become, the fact remains that they are jointly present in every kind of 
understanding. He who looks at the becoming and fulfilling in them, experi- 
ences History; he who dissects them as become and fulfilled cognizes Nature. 
In every man, in every Culture, in every culture-phase, there is found an 
inherent disposition, an inherent inclination and vocation to prefer one of the 
two forms as an ideal of understanding the world. Western man is in a high 
degree historically disposed, 1 Classical man far from being so. We follow up 
what is given us with an eye to past and future, whereas Classical man knew 
only the point-present and an ambiance of myth. We have before us a symbol 
of becoming in every bar of our music from Palestrina to Wagner, and the 
Greeks a symbol of the pure present in every one of their statues. The rhythm 
of a body is based upon a simultaneous relation of the parts, that of a fugue in 
the succession of elements in time. 

in 

There emerge, then, as the two basic elements of all world-picturing, the 
principle of Form (Gestalt) and the principle of Law (Gesetz). The more 
decidedly a particular world-picture shows the traits of "Nature," the more 
unconditionally law and number prevail in it; and the more purely intuitive 
the picture of the world as eternally becoming, the more alien to numbers its 
manifold and intangible elements. "Form is something mobile, something 
becoming, something passing. The doctrine of formation is the doctrine of 
transformation. Metamorphosis is the key to the whole alphabet of Nature," 
so runs a note of Goethe's, marking already the methodic difference between 
his famous "exact percipient fancy* ' which quietly lets itself be worked upon 
by the living, 2 and the exact killing procedure of modern physics. But whatever 
the process, a remainder consisting of so much of the alien element as is present 
is always found. In strict natural sciences this remainder takes the form of the 
inevitable theories and hypotheses which are imposed on, and leaven, the stiff mass 
of number and formula. In historical research, it appears as chronology, the 
number-structure of dates and statistics which, alien though number is to the 
essence of becoming, is so thoroughly woven around and into the world of 
historical forms that it is never felt to be intrusive. For it is devoid of mathe- 
matical import. Chronological number distinguishes uniquely-occurring actu- 
alities, mathematical number constant possibilities. The one sharpens the 
images and works up the outlines of epoch and fact for the understanding eye. 

1 "Anti-historical," the expression which we apply to a decidedly systematic valuation, is to 
be carefully distinguished from "ahistorical." The beginning of the IV Book (53) of Schopen- 
hauer's Welt als Wille unci Vorstellung affords a good illustration of the man who thinks 
anti-historically, that is, deliberately for theoretical reasons suppresses and rejects the historical 
in himself — something that is actually there. The ahistoric Greek nature, on the contrary, neither 
possesses nor understands it. 

2 "There are prime phenomena which in their godlike simplicity we must not disturb or in- 
fringe." 



98 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

But the other is itself the law which it seeks to establish, the end and aim of 
research. Chronological number is a scientific means of pioneering borrowed 
from the science of sciences, mathematics, and used as such without regard to 
its specific properties. Compare, for instance, the meaning of the two symbols 
11X8= 96, and 18 October, 1813. 1 It is the same difference, in the use of 
figures, that prose and poetry present in the use of words. 

One other point remains to be noted. 2 As a becoming always lies at the 
base of the become, and as the world-picture representative of becoming is that 
which history gives us, therefore history is the original world-form, and Nature 
— the fully elaborated world-mechanism — is the late world-form that only 
the men of a mature Culture can completely actualize. In fact, the darkness 
encompassing the simple soul of primitive mankinds, which we can realize even 
to-day from their religious customs and myths — that entirely organic world of 
pure wilfulness, of hostile demons and kindly powers — was through-and- 
through a living and swaying whole, ununderstandable, indefinable, incal- 
culable. We may call this Nature if we like, but it is not what we mean by 
"nature," i.e., the strict image projected by a knowing intellect. Only the 
souls of children and of great artists can now hear the echoes of this long- 
forgotten world of nascent humanity, but it echoes still, and not rarely, even 
in the inelastic "nature* '-medium that the city-spirit of the mature Culture is 
remorselessly building up round the individual. Hence that acute antagonism 
between the scientific ( 4 ' modern ' ') and the artistic ( 4 ' unpractical ' ') world-idea 
which every Late period knows; the man of fact and the poet do not and 
cannot understand one another. Hence comes, too, that tendency of his- 
torical study, which must inevitably contain an element of the childish, the 
dreamy, the Goethian, to dress up as a science, to be (using its own naive 
word) " materialistic,' ' at the imminent risk of becoming a mere physics of 
public life. 

"Nature," in the exact sense, is a way of possessing actuality which is 
special to the few, restricted to the megalopolitans of the late periods of great 
Cultures, masculine, perhaps even senatorial; while History is the naive, youth- 
ful, more or less instinctive way that is proper to all men alike. At least, that 
is the position of the number-based, unmystical, dissectable and dissected 
"Nature" of Aristotle and Kant, the Sophists and the Darwinians, modern 
physics and chemistry, vis-a-vis the lived, felt and unconfined "Nature" of 
Homer and the Eddas, of Doric and Gothic man. To overlook this is to miss 
the whole essence of historical treatment. It is history that is the truly natural, 
and the exact mechanically-correct "Nature" of the scientist that is the 
artificial conception of world by soul. Hence the paradox that modern man 
finds "nature "-study easy and historical study hard. 

1 The date of Napoleon's defeat, and the liberation of Germany, on the field of Leipzig. — Tr. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 15 et seq., 317 et seq. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 99 

Tendencies towards a mechanistic idea of the world proceeding wholly from 
mathematical delimitation and logical differentiation, from law and causality, 
appear quite early. They are found in the first centuries of all Cultures, still 
weak, scattered and lost in the full tide of the religious world-conception. The 
name to be recalled here is that of Roger Bacon. But soon these tendencies 
acquire a sterner character: like everything that is wrung out of the soul and 
has to defend itself against human nature, they are not wanting in arrogance 
and exclusiveness. Quietly the spatial and comprehensible (comprehension is 
in its essence number, in its structure quantitative) becomes prepotent through- 
out the outer world of the individual and, aiding and aided by the simple 
impressions of sensuous-life, effects a mechanical synthesis of the causal and 
legal sort, so that at long last the sharp consciousness of the megalopolitan — 
be he of Thebes, Babylon, Benares, Alexandria or a West European cosmopolis 
— is subjected to so consistent a pressure of natural-law notions that, when 
scientific and philosophical prejudice (it is no more than that) dictates the 
proposition that this condition of the soul is the soul and the mechanical 
world-picture is the world, the assertion is scarcely challenged. It has been 
made predominant by logicians like Aristotle and Kant. But Plato and Goethe 
have rejected it and refuted it. 

rvr 

The task of world-knowing — for the man of the higher Cultures a need, 
seen as a duty, of expressing his own essence — is certainly in every case the 
same, though its process may be called science or philosophy, and though its 
affinity to artistic creation and to faith-intuition may for one be something 
felt and for another something questionable. It is to present, without accre- 
tions, that form of the world-picture which to the individual in each case is 
proper and significant, and for him (so long as he does not compare) is in fact 
"the" world. 

The task is necessarily a double one, in view of the distinction between 
"Nature" and "History." Each speaks its own form-language which differs 
utterly from that of the other, and however the two may overlap and confuse 
one another in an unsifted and ambiguous world-picture such as that of every- 
day life, they are incapable of any inner unity. 

Direction and Extension are the outstanding characters which differentiate 
the historical and the scientific (naturhaft) kind of impressibility, and it is 
totally impossible for a man to have both working creatively within him at 
the same time. The double meaning of the German word "Feme" (distance, 
farness) is illuminating. In the one order of ideas it implies futurity, in the 
other a spatial interval of standing apart, and the reader will not fail to remark 
that the historical materialist almost necessarily conceives time as a mathe- 
matical dimension, while for the born artist, on the contrary, — as the lyrics of 



ioo THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

every land show us — the distance-impressions made by deep landscapes, clouds, 
horizon and setting sun attach themselves without an effort to the sense of a 
future. The Greek poet denies the future, and consequently he neither sees nor 
sings of the things of the future; he cleaves to the near, as he belongs to the 
present, entirely. 

The natural-science investigator, the productive reasoner in the full sense of 
the word, whether he be an experimenter like Faraday, a theorist like Galileo, 
a calculator like Newton, finds in his world only directionless quantities which 
he measures, tests and arranges. It is only the quantitative that is capable of 
being grasped through figures, of being causally defined, of being captured in a 
law or formula, and when it has achieved this, pure nature-knowledge has shot 
its bolt. All its laws are quantitative connexions, or as the physicist puts it, all 
physical processes run a course in space, an expression which a Greek physicist 
would have corrected — without altering the fact — into "all physical proc- 
esses occur between bodies' 9 conformably to the space-denying feeling of the 
Classical soul. 

The historical kind of impression-process is alien to everything quantitative, 
and affects a different organ. To World-as-Nature certain modes of apprehen- 
sion, as to World-as-History certain other modes, are -proper. We know them and 
use them every day, without (as yet) having become aware of their opposition. 
There is nature-knowledge and there is man-knowledge; there is scientific experience 
and there is vital experience. Let the reader track down this contrast into his 
own inmost being, and he will understand what I mean. 

All modes of comprehending the world may, in the last analysis, be described 
as Morphology. The Morphology of the mechanical and the extended, a science which 
discovers and orders nature-laws and causal relations, is called Systematic. The Morphol- 
ogy of the organic, of history and life and all that bears the sign of direction and destiny, 
is called Physiognomic. 



In the West, the Systematic mode of treating the world reached and passed 
its culminating-point during the last century, while the great days of Physiog- 
nomic have still to come. In a hundred years all sciences that are still possible 
on this soil will be parts of a single vast Physiognomic of all things human. 
This is what the "Morphology of World-History' * means. In every science, 
and in the aim no less than in the content of it, man tells the story of himself. 
Scientific experience is spiritual self-knowledge. It is from this standpoint, as 
a chapter of Physiognomic, that we have just treated of mathematics. We were 
not concerned with what this or that mathematician intended, nor with the 
savant as such or his results as a contribution to an aggregate of knowledge, 
but with the mathematician as a human being, with his work as a part of the 
phenomenon of himself, with his knowledge and purposes as a part of his 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 101 

expression. This alone is of importance to us here. He is the mouthpiece of a 
Culture which tells us about itself through him, and he belongs, as person- 
ality, as soul, as discoverer, thinker and creator, to the physiognomy of that 
Culture. 

Every mathematic, in that it brings out and makes visible to all the idea of 
number that is proper to itself and inborn in its conscious being, is, whether 
the expression-form be a scientific system or (as in the case of Egypt) an archi- 
tecture, the confession of a Soul. If it is true that the intentional accomplish- 
ments of a mathematic belong only to the surface of history, it is equally true 
that its unconscious element, its number-as-such, and the style in which it 
builds up its self-contained cosmos of forms are an expression of its existence, 
its blood. Its life-history of ripening and withering, its deep relation to the 
creative acts, the myths and the cults of the same Culture — such things are the 
subject-matter of a second or historical morphology, though the possibility of 
such a morphology is hardly yet admitted. 

The visible foregrounds of history, therefore, have the same significance as 
the outward phenomena of the individual man (his statue, his bearing, his air, 
his stride, his way of speaking and writing), as distinct from what he says or 
writes. In the "knowledge of men " these things exist and matter. The body 
and all its elaborations — defined, "become" and mortal as they are — are an 
expression of the soul. But henceforth "knowledge of men" implies also 
knowledge of those superlative human organisms that I call Cultures, and of 
their mien, their speech, their acts — these terms being meant as we mean them 
already in the case of the individual. 

Descriptive, creative, Physiognomic is the art of portraiture transferred to 
the spiritual domain. Don Quixote, Werther, Julian Sorel, are portraits of an 
epoch, Faust the portrait of a whole Culture. For the nature-researcher, the 
morphologist as systematist, the portrayal of the world is only a business of 
imitation, and corresponds to the "fidelity to nature" and the "likeness" of 
the craftsman-painter, who, at bottom, works on purely mathematical lines. 
But a real portrait in the Rembrandt sense of the word is physiognomic, that 
is, history captured in a moment. The set of his self-portraits is nothing else but 
a (truly Goethian) autobiography. So should the biographies of the great 
Cultures be handled. The "fidelity" part, the work of the professional his- 
torian on facts and figures, is only a means, not an end. The countenance of 
history is made up of all those things which hitherto we have only managed to 
evaluate according to personal standards, i.e., as beneficial or harmful, good or 
bad, satisfactory or unsatisfactory — political forms and economic forms, 
battles and arts, science and gods, mathematics and morals. Everything what- 
soever that has become is a symbol, and the expression of a soul. Only to one 
having the knowledge of men will it unveil itself. The restraint of a law it 
abhors. What it demands is that its significance should be sensed. And thus 



ioi THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

research reaches up to a final or superlative truth — ; Alles Vergangliche ist 
nur ein Gleichnis. 1 

The nature-researcher can be educated, but the man who knows history is 
born. He seizes and pierces men and facts with one blow, guided by a feeling 
which cannot be acquired by learning or affected by persuasion, but which only 
too rarely manifests itself in full intensity. Direction, fixing, ordering, defining 
by cause and effect, are things that one can do if one likes. These things are 
work, but the other is creation. Form and law, portrayal and comprehension, 
symbol and formula, have different organs, and their opposition is that in 
which life stands to death, production to destruction. Reason, system and com- 
prehension kill as they "cognize." That which is cognized becomes a rigid 
object, capable of measurement and subdivision. Intuitive vision, on the other 
hand, vivifies and incorporates the details in a living inwardly-felt unity. 
Poetry and historical study are kin. Calculation and cognition also are kin. 
But, as Hebbel says somewhere, systems are not dreamed, and art-works are not 
calculated or (what is the same thing) thought out. The artist or the real 
historian sees the becoming of a thing (schaut, wie etwas wird), and he can re- 
enact its becoming from its lineaments, whereas the systematise whether he be 
physicist, logician, evolutionist or pragmatical historian, learns the thing that 
has become. The artist's soul, like the soul of a Culture, is something potential 
that may actualize itself, something complete and perfect — in the language of 
an older philosophy, a microcosm. The systematic spirit, narrow and with- 
drawn (" abs-tract ") from the sensual, is an autumnal and passing phenomenon 
belonging to the ripest conditions of a Culture. Linked with the city, into 
which its life is more and more herded, it comes and goes with the city. In the 
Classical world, there is science only from the 6th-century Ionians to the Roman 
period, but there was art in the Classical world for just as long as there was 
existence. 

Once more, a paradigm may help in elucidation. 



Existence 
Consciousness 

World-image 



Soul 
' potentiality 



-► fulfilment 

(L//0 

becoming 

direction 

organic 

symbol, portrait, 

History* 
Rhythm, form. 
Physiognomic. 

Facts 



World 
actuality 

the become 

extension 

mechanical 

number, notion. 

" i 

* Nature 

Tension, law. 

Systematic. 

Truths 



1 "All we see before us passing 
Sign and symbol is alone." 
From the final stanza of Faust II (Anster's translation). — Tr* 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 103 

Seeking thus to obtain a clear idea of the unifying principle out of which 
each of these two worlds is conceived, we find that mathematically-controlled 
cognition relates always (and the purer it is, the more directly) to a continu- 
ous present. The picture of nature dealt with by the physicist is that which 
is deployed before his senses at the given moment. It is one of the tacit, but 
none the less firm, presuppositions of nature-research that 4 4 Nature ' ' (die Natur) 
is the same for every consciousness and for all times. An experiment is decisive 
for good and all; time being, not precisely denied, but eliminated from the field 
of investigation. Real history rests on an equally certain sense of the contrai-y; 
what it presupposes as its origin is a nearly indescribable sensitive faculty 
within, which is continuously labile under continuous impressions, and is in- 
capable therefore of possessing what may be called a centre of time. 1 (We shall 
consider later what the physicist means by " time.") The picture of history — 
be it the history of mankind, of the world of organisms, of the earth or of the 
stellar systems — is a memory-ipict\xtc. "Memory," in this connexion, is con- 
ceived as a higher state (certainly not proper to every consciousness and vouch- 
safed to many in only a low degree), a perfectly definite kind of imagining power, 
which enables experience to traverse each particular moment sub specie aternitatis 
as one point in an integral made up of all the past and all the future, and it forms 
the necessary basis of all looking-backward, all self-knowledge and all self- 
confession. In this sense, Classical man has no memory and therefore no history, 
either in or around himself. 4 4 No man can judge history but one who has him- 
self experienced history, ' ' says Goethe. In the Classical world-consciousness all 
Past was absorbed in the instant Present. Compare the entirely historical heads 
of the Niirnberg Cathedral sculptures, of Diirer, of Rembrandt, with those of 
Hellenistic sculpture, for instance the famous Sophocles statue. The former tell 
the whole history of a soul, whereas the latter rigidly confines itself to ex- 
pressing the traits of a momentary being, and tells nothing of how this being is 
the issue of a course of life — if indeed we can speak of 4 * course of life " at all in 
connexion with a purely Classical man, who is always complete and never 
becoming. 

VI 

And now it is possible to discover the ultimate elements of the historical 
form-world. 

Countless shapes that emerge and vanish, pile up and melt again, a thousand- 
hued glittering tumult, it seems, of perfectly wilful chance — such is the pic- 
ture of world-history when first it deploys before our inner eye. But through 
this seeming anarchy, the keener glance can detect those pure forms which 
underlie all human becoming, penetrate their cloud-mantle, and bring them 
unwillingly to unveil. 

1 This phrase, derived by analogy from the centre of gravity of mechanics, is offered as a transla- 
tion of "mithin in einim Zeitpunkte ger nicht zusammengefasst werden konnen." — Tr. 



104 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

But of the whole picture of world-becoming, of that cumulus of grand planes 
that the Faust-eye * sees piled one beyond another — the becoming of the 
heavens, of the earth's crust, of life, of man — we shall deal here only with 
that very small morphological unit that we are accustomed to call "world- 
history," that history which Goethe ended by despising, the history of higher 
mankind during 6000 years or so, without going into the deep problem of the 
inward homogeneity of all these aspects. What gives this fleeting form-world 
meaning and substance, and what has hitherto lain buried deep under a mass of 
tangible "facts" and "dates" that has hardly yet been bored through, is 
the phenomenon of the Great Cultures. Only after these prime forms shall have been 
seen and felt and worked out in respect of their physiognomic meaning will it 
be possible to say that the essence and inner form of human History as opposed 
to the essence of Nature are understood — or rather, that we understand them. 
Only after this inlook and this outlook will a serious philosophy of history 
become feasible. Only then will it be possible to see each fact in the historical 
picture — each idea, art, war, personality, epoch — according to its symbolic 
content, and to regard history not as a mere sum of past things without in- 
trinsic order or inner necessity, but as an organism of rigorous structure and 
significant articulation, an organism that does not suddenly dissolve into a 
formless and ambiguous future when it reaches the accidental present of the 
observer. 

Cultures are organisms, and world-history is their collective biography. Mor- 
phologically, the immense history of the Chinese or of the Classical Culture is 
the exact equivalent of the petty history of the individual man, or of the 
animal, or the tree, or the flower. For the Faustian vision, this is not a postu- 
late but an experience; if we want to learn to recognize inward forms that 
constantly and everywhere repeat themselves, the comparative morphology 2 
of plants and animals has long ago given us the methods. In the destinies of the 
several Cultures that follow upon one another, grow up with one another, touch, 
overshadow, and suppress one another, is compressed the whole content of 
human history. And if we set free their shapes, till now hidden all too deep 
under the surface of a trite "history of human progress," and let them march 
past us in the spirit, it cannot but be that we shall succeed in distinguishing, 
amidst all that is special or unessential, the primitive culture-form, the Culture 
that underlies as ideal all the individual Cultures. 

I distinguish the idea of a Culture, which is the sum total of its inner pos- 
sibilities, from its sensible phenomenon or appearance upon the canvas of history 
as a fulfilled actuality. It is the relation of the soul to the living body, to its 
expression in the light-world perceptible to our eyes. This history of a Culture 

1 Cf. Vol. H, p. 33 et seq. 

2 Not the dissecting morphology of the Darwinian's pragmatic zoology with its hunt for 
causal connexions, but the seeing and overseeing morphology of Goethe. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 105 

is the progressive actualizing of its possible, and the fulfilment is equivalent to 
the end. In this way the Apollinian soul, which some of us can perhaps under- 
stand and share in, is related to its unfolding in the realm of actuality, to the 
" Classical' ' or "antique" as we call it, of which the tangible and understand- 
able relics are investigated by the archaeologist, the philologist, the aesthetic 
and the historian. 

Culture is the prime phenomenon of all past and future world-history. The 
deep, and scarcely appreciated, idea of Goethe, which he discovered in his 
"living nature" and always made the basis of his morphological researches, 
we shall here apply — in its most precise sense — to all the formations of man's 
history, whether fully matured, cut off in the prime, half opened or stifled in the 
seed. It is the method of living into (erfiihlen) the object, as opposed to dis- 
secting it. "The highest to which man can attain, is wonder; and if the prime 
phenomenon makes him wonder, let him be content; nothing higher can it give 
him, and nothing further should he seek for behind it; here is the limit." The 
prime phenomenon is that in which the idea of becoming is presented net. To 
the spiritual eye of Goethe the idea of the prime plant was clearly visible in 
the form of every individual plant that happened to come up, or even that 
could possibly come up. In his investigation of the "os intermaxillare " his 
starting-point was the prime phenomenon of the vertebrate type; and in other fields 
it was geological stratification, or the leaf as the prime form of the plant- 
organism, or the metamorphosis of the plants as the prime form of all organic 
becoming. "The same law will apply to everything else that lives," he wrote, 
in announcing his discovery to Herder. It was a look into the heart of things 
that Leibniz would have understood, but the century of Darwin is as remote 
from such a vision as it is possible to be. * 

At present, however, we look in vain for any treatment of history that is 
entirely free from the methods of Darwinism — that is, of systematic natural 
science based on causality. A physiognomic that is precise, clear and sure of 
itself and its limits has never yet arisen, and it can only arise through the dis- 
coveries of method that we have yet to make. Herein lies the great problem 
set for the 2.0th Century to solve — to explore carefully the inner structure 
of the organic units through and in which world-history fulfils itself, to separ- 
ate the morphologically necessary from the accidental, and, by seizing the 
purport of events, to ascertain the languages in which they speak. 

VII 

A boundless mass of human Being, flowing in a stream without banks; 
up-stream, a dark past wherein our time-sense loses all powers of definition and 
restless or uneasy fancy conjures up geological periods to hide away an eternally- 
unsolvable riddle; down-stream, a future even so dark and timeless — such is 
the groundwork of the Faustian picture of human history. 



106 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Over the expanse of the water passes the endless uniform wave-train of the 
generations. Here and there bright shafts of light broaden out, everywhere 
dancing flashes confuse and disturb the clear mirror, changing, sparkling, 
vanishing. These are what we call the clans, tribes, peoples, races which unify 
a series of generations within this or that limited area of the historical sur- 
face. As widely as these differ in creative power, so widely do the images 
that they create vary in duration and plasticity, and when the creative power 
dies out, the physiognomic, linguistic and spiritual identification-marks vanish 
also and the phenomenon subsides again into the ruck of the generations. 
Aryans, Mongols, Germans, Kelts, Parthians, Franks, Carthaginians, Berbers, 
Bantus are names by which we specify some very heterogeneous images of 
this order. 

But over this surface, too, the great Cultures 1 accomplish their majestic 
wave-cycles. They appear suddenly, swell in splendid lines, flatten again and 
vanish, and the face of the waters is once more a sleeping waste. 

A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto- 
spirituality (dem urseelenhaften Zustande) of ever-childish humanity, and de- 
taches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the 
boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, 
to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when this soul has actualized 
the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, 
states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul. But its living existence, that 
sequence of great epochs which define and display the stages of fulfilment, is an 
inner passionate struggle to maintain the Idea against the powers of Chaos 
without and the unconscious muttering deep-down within. It is not only the 
artist who struggles against the resistance of the material and the stifling of 
the idea within him. Every Culture stands in a deeply-symbolical, almost in a 
mystical, relation to the Extended, the space, in which and through which it 
strives to actualize itself. The aim once attained — the idea, the entire content 
of inner possibilities, fulfilled and made externally actual — the Culture sud- 
denly hardens, it mortifies, its blood congeals, its force breaks down, and it 
becomes Civilisation, the thing which we feel and understand in the words 
Egypticism, Byzantinism, Mandarinism. As such they may, like a worn-out 
giant of the primeval forest, thrust their decaying branches towards the sky 
for hundreds or thousands of years, as we see in China, in India, in the Islamic 
world. It was thus that the Classical Civilization rose gigantic, in the Imperial 
age, with a false semblance of youth and strength and fullness, and robbed the 
young Arabian Culture of the East of light and air. 2 

This — the inward and outward fulfilment, the finality, that awaits every 
living Culture — is the purport of all the historic " declines,' ' amongst them 
that decline of the Classical which we know so well and fully, and another 
1 See Vol. II, pp. 41 et seq. * See Vol. II, pp. 12.7 et seq. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 107 

decline, entirely comparable to it in course and duration, which will occupy 
the first centuries of the coming millennium but is heralded already and sensible 
in and around us to-day — the decline of the West. 1 Every Culture passes 
through the age-phases of the individual man. Each has its childhood, youth, 
manhood and old age. It is a young and trembling soul, heavy with misgivings, 
that reveals itself in the morning of Romanesque and Gothic. It fills the 
Faustian landscape from the Provence of the troubadours to the Hildesheim 
cathedral of Bishop Bernward. 2 The spring wind blows over it. "In the works 
of the old-German architecture," says Goethe, "one sees the blossoming of an 
extraordinary state. Anyone immediately confronted with such a blossoming 
can do no more than wonder; but one who can see into the secret inner life 
of the plant and its rain offerees, who can observe how the bud expands, little 
by little, sees the thing with quite other eyes and knows what he is seeing." 
Childhood speaks to us also — and in the same tones — out of early-Homeric 
Doric, out of early-Christian (which is really early-Arabian) art and out of 
the works of the Old Kingdom in Egypt that began with the Fourth Dynasty. 
There a mythic world-consciousness is fighting like a harassed debtor against 
all the dark and daemonic in itself and in Nature, while slowly ripening itself 
for the pure, day-bright expression of the existence that it will at last achieve 
and know. The more nearly a Culture approaches the noon culmination of 
its being, the more virile, austere, controlled, intense the form-language it has 
secured for itself, the more assured its sense of its own power, the clearer its 
lineaments. In the spring all this had still been dim and confused, tentative, 
filled with childish yearning and fears — witness the ornament of Romanesque- 
Gothic church porches of Saxony 3 and southern France, the early-Christian 
catacombs, the Dipylon 4 vases. But there is now the full consciousness of 
ripened creative power that we see in the time of the early Middle Kingdom 
of Egypt, in the Athens of the Pisistratidse, in the age of Justinian, in that 
of the Counter-Reformation, and we find every individual trait of expres- 
sion deliberate, strict, measured, marvellous in its ease and self-confidence. 
And we find, too, that everywhere, at moments, the coming fulfilment suggested 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 116 et seq. What constitutes the downfall is not, e.g., the catastrophe of the 
Great Migrations, which like the annihilation of the Maya Culture by the Spaniards (see Vol. II, 
p. 51 et seq.) was a coincidence without any deep necessity, but the inward undoing that began from 
the time of Hadrian, as in China from the Eastern Han dynasty (2.5-110). 

2 St. Bernward was Bishop of Hildesheim from 993 to ion, and himself architect and metal- 
worker. Three other churches besides'the cathedral survive in the city from his time or that of his 
immediate successors, and Hildesheim of all North German cities is richest in monuments of the 
Romanesque. — Tr. 

3 By " Saxony," a German historian means not the present-day state of Saxony (which was a 
small and comparatively late accretion), but the whole region of the Weser and the lower Elbe, with 
Westphalia and Holstein. — Tr. 

4 Vases from the cemetery adjoining the Dipylon Gate of Athens, the most representative relics 
that we possess of the Doric or primitive age of the Hellenic Culture (about 900 to 600 b.c). — Tr. 



io8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

itself; in such moments were created the head of Amenemhet III (the so-called 
"Hyksos Sphinx" of Tanis), the domes of Hagia Sophia, the paintings of 
Titian. Still later, tender to the point of fragility, fragrant with the sweet- 
ness of late October days, come the Cnidian Aphrodite and the Hall of the 
Maidens in the Erechtheum, the arabesques on Saracen horseshoe-arches, the 
Zwinger of Dresden, Watteau, Mozart. At last, in the grey dawn of Civiliza- 
tion, the fire in the Soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, 
half-successful, effort of creation, and produce the Classicism that is common 
to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism looks 
back piteously to its childhood; then finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses 
its desire to be, and, as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong 
daylight and back in the darkness of protomysticism, in the womb of the 
mother, in the grave. The spell of a "second religiousness' ' 1 comes upon it, 
and Late-Classical man turns to the practice of the cults of Mithras, of Isis, 
of the Sun — those very cults into which a soul just born in the East has been 
pouring a new wine of dreams and fears and loneliness. 

VIII 

The term *' habit" (Habitus) is used of a plant to signify the special way, 
proper to itself, in which it manifests itself, i.e., the character, course and 
duration of its appearance in the light-world where we can see it. By its habit 
each kind is distinguished, in respect of each part and each phase of its existence, 
from all examples of other species. We may apply this useful notion of * * habit ' ' 
in our physiognomic of the grand organisms and speak of the habit of the 
Indian, Egyptian or Classical Culture, history or spirituality. Some vague 
inkling of it has always, for that matter, underlain the notion of style, and we 
shall not be forcing but merely clearing and deepening that word if we speak 
of the religious, intellectual, political, social or economic style 2 of a Culture. 
This " habit" of existence in space, which covers in the case of the individual 
man action and thought and conduct and disposition, embraces in the case or 
the existence of whole Cultures the totality of life-expressions of the higher 
order. The choice of particular branches of art (e.g., the round and fresco by 
the Hellenes, counterpoint and oil-painting by the West) and the out-and-out 
rejection of others (e.g., of plastic by the Arabs); inclination to the esoteric 
(India) or the popular (Greece and Rome); preference for oratory (Classical) or 
for writing (China, the West) as the form of spiritual communication, are all 
style-manifestations, and so also are the various types of costume, of administra- 
tion, of transport, of social courtesies. All great personalities of the Classical 
world form a self-contained group, whose spiritual habit is definitely different 

1 Sec Vol. II, pp. 382. et scq. 

2 In English the word "cast" will evidently satisfy the sense better on occasion. The word 
"stil" will therefore not necessarily be always rendered "style." — Tr. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 109 

from that of all great men of the Arabian or the Western groups. Compare even 
Goethe and Raphael with Classical men, and Heraclitus, Sophocles, Plato, 
Alcibiades, Themistocles, Horace and Tiberius rank themselves together in- 
stantly as members of one family. Every Classical cosmopolis — from Hiero's 
Syracuse to Imperial Rome the embodiment and sense-picture of one and the 
same life-feeling — differs radically in lay-out and street-plan, in the language 
of its public and private architecture, in the type of its squares, alleys, courts, 
fagades, in its colour, noises, street-life and night-life, from the group of Indian 
or that of Arabian or that of Western world-cities. Baghdad and Cairo could 
be felt in Granada long after the conquest; even Philip II's Madrid had all the 
physiognomic hall-marks of modern London and Paris. There is a high sym- 
bolism in every dissimilarity of this sort. Contrast the Western tendency to 
straight-lined perspectives and street-alignments (such as the grand tract of the 
Champs-Elysees from the Louvre, or the Piazza before St. Peter's) with the 
almost deliberate complexity and narrowness of the Via Sacra, the Forum 
Romanum and the Acropolis, whose parts are arranged without symmetry and 
with no perspective. Even the town-planning — whether darkly as in the 
Gothic or consciously as in the ages of Alexander and Napoleon — reflects the 
same principle as the mathematic — in the one case the Leibnizian mathematic 
of infinite space, in the other the Euclidean mathematic of separate bodies. 1 
But to the "habit" of a group belong, further, its definite life-duration and its 
definite tempo of development. Both of these are properties which we must not 
fail to take into account in a historical theory of structure. The rhythm (Takt) 
of Classical existence was different from that of Egyptian or Arabian; and we 
can fairly speak of the andante of Greece and Rome and the allegro con brio of the 
Faustian spirit. 

The notion of life-duration as applied to a man, a butterfly, an oak, a blade 
of grass, comprises a specific time-value, which is quite independent of all the 
accidents of the individual case. Ten years are a slice of life which is approxi- 
mately equivalent for all men, and the metamorphosis of insects is associated 
with a number of days exactly known and predictable in individual cases. 
For the Romans the notions of pueritia, adolescentia, inventus, virilitas, senectus 
possessed an almost mathematically precise meaning. Without doubt the bi- 
ology of the future will — in opposition to Darwinism and to the exclusion in 
principle of causal fitness-motives for the origins of species — take these pre- 
ordained life durations as the starting-point for a new enunciation of its prob- 
lem. 2 The duration of a generation — whatever may be its nature — is a fact 
of almost mystical significance. 

Now, such relations are valid also, and to an extent never hitherto imagined, 
for all the higher Cultures. Every Culture, every adolescence and maturing and decay 
of a Culture, every one of its intrinsically necessary stages and periods, has a definite 
1 See Vol. n, pp. 109 et seq. 2 See Vol. II, pp. 36 et seq. 



no THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

duration, always the same, always recurring with the emphasis of a symbol. In the 
present work we cannot attempt to open up this world of most mysterious 
connexions, but the facts that will emerge again and again as we go on will 
tell us of themselves how much lies hidden here. What is the meaning of that 
striking fifty-year period, the rhythm of the political, intellectual and artistic 
"becoming" of all Cultures? l Of the 300-year period of the Baroque, of the 
Ionic, of the great mathematics, of Attic sculpture, of mosaic painting, of 
counterpoint, of Galileian mechanics? What does the ideal life of one mil- 
lennium for each Culture mean in comparison with the individual man's 
"three-score years and ten"? As the plant's being is brought to expression 
in form, dress and carriage by leaves, blossoms, twigs and fruit, so also is the 
being of a Culture manifested by its religious, intellectual, political and 
economic formations. Just as, say, Goethe's individuality discourses of itself 
in such widely-different forms as the Faust, the Farbenlehre, the Reineke Fuchs, 
Tasso, Werther, the journey to Italy and the Friederike love, the Westostliche 
Diwan and the Romische Elegien; so the individuality of the Classical world 
displays itself in the Persian wars, the Attic drama, the City-State, the Dio- 
nysia and not less in the Tyrannis, the Ionic column, the geometry of Euclid, 
the Roman legion, and the gladiatorial contests and "panem et circenses" of 
the Imperial age. 

In this sense, too, every individual being that has any sort of importance 
recapitulates, 2 of intrinsic necessity, all the epochs of the Culture to which it 
belongs. In ea^h one of us, at that decisive moment when he begins to know 
that he is an ego, the inner life wakens just where and just how that of the 
Culture wakened long ago. Each of us men of the West, in his child's day- 
dreams and child's play, lives again its Gothic — the cathedrals, the castles, 
the hero-sagas, the crusader's "Dieu le veult," the soul's oath of young Parzi- 
val. Every young Greek had his Homeric age and his Marathon. In Goethe's 
Werther, the image of a tropic youth that every Faustian (but no Classical) 
man knows, the springtime of Petrarch and the Minnesanger reappears. When 
Goethe blocked out the Urfaust* he was Parzival; when he finished Faust I, he 
was Hamlet, and only with Faust II did he become the world-man of the 19th 
Century whom Byron could understand. Even the senility of the Classical — 
the faddy and unfruitful centuries of very late Hellenism, the second-childhood 

1 I will only mention here the distances apart of the three Punic Wars, and the series — like- 
wise comprehensible only as rhythmic — Spanish Succession War, Silesian wars, Napoleonic Wars, 
Bismarck's wars, and the World War (cf. Vol. II, p. 488). Connected with this is the spiritual rela- 
tion of grandfather and grandson, a relation which produces in the mind of primitive peoples the 
conviction that the soul of the grandfather returns in the grandson, and has originated the wide- 
spread custom of giving the grandson the grandfather's name, which by its mystic spell binds his 
soul afresh to the corporeal world. 

2 The word is used in the sense in which biology employs it, viz., to describe the process by which 
the embryo traverses all the phases which its species has undergone. — Tr. 

8 The first draft of Faust I, discovered only comparatively recently. — Tr. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC m 

of a weary and blase intelligence — can be studied in more than one of its grand 
old men. Thus, much of Euripides' Baccha anticipates the life-outlook, and 
much of Plato's Timaus the religious syncretism of the Imperial age; and 
Goethe's Faust II and Wagner's Parsifal disclose to us in advance the shape 
that our spirituality will assume in our next (in point of creative power our last) 
centuries. 

Biology employs the term homology of organs to signify morphological 
equivalence in contradistinction to the term analogy which relates to functional 
equivalence. This important, and in the sequel most fruitful, notion was con- 
ceived by Goethe (who was led thereby to the discovery of the "os inter- 
maxillary" in man) and put into strict scientific shape by Owen; 1 this notion 
also we shall incorporate in our historical method. 

It is known that for every part of the bone-structure of the human head an 
exactly corresponding part is found in all vertebrated animals right down to 
the fish, and that the pectoral fins of fish and the feet, wings and hands of 
terrestrial vertebrates are homologous organs, even though they have lost 
every trace of similarity. The lungs of terrestrial, and the swim-bladders 
of aquatic animals are homologous, while lungs and gills on the other hand 
are analogous — that is, similar in point of use. 2 And the trained and deepened 
morphological insight that is required to establish such distinctions is an 
utterly different thing from the present method of historical research, with its 
shallow comparisons of Christ and Buddha, Archimedes and Galileo, Csesar 
and Wallenstein, parcelled Germany and parcelled Greece. More and more 
clearly as we go on, we shall realize what immense views will offer themselves 
to the historical eye as soon as the rigorous morphological method has been 
understood and cultivated. To name but a few examples, homologous forms are: 
Classical sculpture and West European orchestration, the Fourth Dynasty pyra- 
mids and the Gothic cathedrals, Indian Buddhism and Roman Stoicism (Bud- 
dhism and Christianity are not even analogous^ the periods of " the Contending 
States " in China, the Hyksos in Egypt and the Punic Wars; the age of Pericles 
and the age of the Ommayads; the epochs of the Rigveda, of Plotinus and of 
Dante. The Dionysiac movement is homologous with the Renaissance, analog- 
ous to the Reformation. For us, "Wagner is the resumS of modernity," as 
Nietzsche rightly saw; and the equivalent that logically must exist in the Classi- 
cal modernity we find in Pergamene art. (Some preliminary notion of the fruit- 

1 See Ency. Brit., Xlth Ed., articles Owen, Sir Richard; Morphology and Zoology (p. 1019). — Tr. 

2 It is not superfluous to add that there is nothing of the causal kind in these pure phenomena of 
"Living Nature." Materialism, in order to get a system for the pedestrian reasoner, has had to adul- 
terate the picture of them with fitness-causes. But Goethe — who anticipated just about as much of 
Darwinism as there will be left of it in fifty years from Darwin — absolutely excluded the causality- 
principle. And the very fact that the Darwinians quite failed to notice its absence is a clear indica- 
tion that Goethe's "Living Nature" belongs to actual life, "cause* Mess and "aim "-less; for the 
idea of the prime-phenomenon does not involve causal assumptions of any sort unless it has been 
misunderstood in advance in a mechanistic sense. 



in. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

fulness of this way of regarding history, may be gathered from studying the 

tables included in this volume.) 

The application of the " homology' ' principle to historical phenomena 
brings with it an entirely new connotation for the word "contemporary." I 
designate as contemporary two historical facts that occur in exactly the same — 
relative — positions in their respective Cultures, and therefore possess exactly 
equivalent importance. It has already been shown how the development of 
the Classical and that of the Western mathematic proceeded in complete con- 
gruence, and we might have ventured to describe Pythagoras as the contem- 
porary of Descartes, Archytas of Laplace, Archimedes of Gauss. The Ionic and 
the Baroque, again, ran their course contemporaneously. Polygnotus pairs in 
time with Rembrandt, Polycletus with Bach. The Reformation, Puritanism 
and, above all, the turn to Civilization appear simultaneously in all Cultures; 
in the Classical this last epoch bears the names of Philip and Alexander, in our 
West those of the Revolution and Napoleon. Contemporary, too, are the 
building of Alexandria, of Baghdad, and of Washington; Classical coinage and 
our double-entry book-keeping; the first Tyrannis and the Fronde; Augustus 
and Shih-huang-ti; 1 Hannibal and the World War. 

I hope to show that without exception all great creations and forms in 
religion, art, politics, social life, economy and science appear, fulfil themselves 
and die down contemporaneously in all the Cultures; that the inner structure of one 
corresponds strictly with that of all the others; that there is not a single phe- 
nomenon of deep physiognomic importance in the record of one for which we 
could not find a counterpart in the record of every other; and that this counter- 
part is to be found under a characteristic form and in a perfectly definite chrono- 
logical position. At the same time, if we are to grasp such homologies of facts, 
we shall need to have a far deeper insight and a far more critical attitude 
towards the visible foreground of things than historians have hitherto been 
wont to display; who amongst them, for instance, would have allowed him- 
self to dream that the counterpart of Protestantism was to be found in the 
Dionysiac movement, and that English Puritanism was for the West what 
Islam was for the Arabian world? 

Seen from this angle, history offers possibilities far beyond the ambitions 
of all previous research, which has contented itself in the main with arranging 
the facts of the past so far as these were known (and that according to a one- 
line scheme) — the possibilities, namely, of 

Overpassing the present as a research-limit, and predetermining the 
spiritual form, duration, rhythm, meaning and product of the still un- 
accomplished stages of our western history; and 

1 Reigned 246-110 b.c. He styled himself "first universal emperor" and intended a position 
for himself and his successors akin to that of "Divus" in Rome. For a brief account of his energetic 
and comprehensive work sec Ency. Brit., XI Ed., article China, p. 194. — Tr. 



PHYSIOGNOMIC AND SYSTEMATIC 113 

Reconstructing long-vanished and unknown epochs, even whole Cul- 
tures of the past, by means of morphological connexions, in much the 
same way as modern palaeontology deduces far-reaching and trustworthy 
conclusions as to skeletal structure and species from a single unearthed 
skull-fragment. 
It is possible, given the physiognomic rhythm, to recover from scattered 
details of ornament, building, script, or from odd political, economic and reli- 
gious data, the organic characters of whole centuries of history, and from 
known elements on the scale of art-expression, to find corresponding elements 
on the scale of political forms, or from that of mathematical forms to read 
that of economic. This is a truly Goethian method — rooted in fact in 
Goethe's conception of the prime -phenomenon — which is already to a limited 
extent current in comparative zoology, but can be extended, to a degree hitherto 
undreamed of, over the whole field of history. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE PROBLEM OF WORLD-HISTORY 

II 

THE IDEA OF DESTINY AND THE PRINCIPLE 1 
OF CAUSALITY 



L 



CHAPTER IV 

THE PROBLEM OF WORLD-HISTORY 

II 

THE IDEA OF DESTINY AND THE PRINCIPLE OF CAUSALITY 



Following out this train of thought to the end, we come into the presence of 
an opposition in which we perceive the key — the only key — wherewith to 
approach, and (so far as the word has any meaning at all) to solve, one of the 
oldest and gravest of man's riddles. This is the opposition of the Destiny Idea 
and the Causality Principle — an opposition which, it is safe to say, has never 
hitherto been recognized for what it is, the necessary foundation of world- 
building. 

Anyone who understands at all what is meant by saying that the soul is the 
idea of an existence, will also divine a near relationship between it and the sure 
sense of a destiny and must regard Life itself (our name for the form in which the 
actualizing of the possible is accomplished) as directed, irrevocable in every 
line, fate-laden. Primitive man feels this dimly and anxiously, while for the 
man of a higher Culture it is definite enough to become his vision of the world 
— though this vision is communicable only through religion and art, never 
through notions and proofs. 

Every higher language possesses a number of words such as luck, doom, 
conjuncture, vocation, about which there is, as it were, a veil. No hypothesis, 
no science, can ever get into touch with that which we feel when we let our- 
selves sink into the meaning and sound of these words. They are symbols, not 
notions. In them is the centre of gravity of that world-picture that I have 
called the World-as-history as opposed to the World-as-nature. The Destiny- 
idea demands life-experience and not scientific experience, the power of seeing 
and not that of calculating, depth and not intellect. There is an organic logic, 
an instinctive, dream-sure logic of all existence as opposed to the logic of the 
inorganic, the logic of understanding and of things understood — a logic of 
direction as against a logic of extension — and no systematise no Aristotle or 
Kant, has known how to deal with it. They are on their own ground when 
they tell us about "judgment," "perception," "awareness," and "recollec- 
tion," but as to what is in the words "hope," "happiness," "despair," "re- 

"7 



n8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

pentance," "devotion," and "consolation" they are silent. He who expects 
here, in the domain of the living, to find reasons and consequences, or imagines 
that an inward certainty as to the meaning of life is the same thing as "Fatal- 
ism" or "Predestination," simply knows nothing of the matters in question, 
confusing experience lived with experience acquired or acquirable. Causality 
is the reasonable, the law-bound, the describable, the badge of our whole 
waking and reasoning existence. But destiny is the word for an inner certainty 
that is not describable. We bring out that which is in the causal by means of 
a physical or an epistemological system, through numbers, by reasoned classi- 
fication; but the idea of destiny can be imparted only by the artist working 
through media like portraiture, tragedy and music. The one requires us to 
distinguish and in distinguishing to dissect and destroy, whereas the other is 
creative through and through, and thus destiny is related to life and causality 
to death. 

In the Destiny-idea the soul reveals its world-longing, its desire to rise 
into the light, to accomplish and actualize its vocation. To no man is it en- 
tirely alien, and not before one has become the unanchored "late" man of the 
megalopolis is original vision quite overpowered by matter-of-fact feeling and 
mechanizing thought. Even then, in some intense hour, the lost vision comes 
back to one with terrible clearness, shattering in a moment all the causality 
of the world's surface. For the world as a system of causal connexions is not 
only a "late" but also a highly rarefied conception and only the energetic 
intellects of high Cultures are capable of possessing it — or perhaps we should 
say, devising it — with conviction. The notion of causality is coterminous 
with the notion of law: the only laws that are, are causal laws. But just as 
there lies in the causal, according to Kant, a necessity of the thinking consciousness 
and the basic form of its relation to the essence of things, so also, designated by the 
words destiny, dispensation, vocation, there is a something that is an inevi- 
table necessity of life. Real history is heavy with fate but free of laws. One can 
divine the future (there is, indeed, a certain insight that can penetrate its secrets 
deeply) but one cannot reckon it. The physiognomic flair which enables one 
to read a whole life in a face or to sum up whole peoples from the picture of 
an epoch — and to do so without deliberate effort or "system" — is utterly 
remote from all "cause and effect." 

He who comprehends the light-world that is before his eyes not physiog- 
nomically but systematically, and makes it intellectually his own by the 
methods of causal experience, must necessarily in the end come to believe that 
every living thing can be understood by reference to cause and effect — that 
there is no secret and no inner directedness. He, on the other hand, who a» 
Goethe did — and for that matter as everyone does in nine out of ten of his 
waking moments — lets the impressions of the world about him work merely 
upon his senses, absorbs these impressions as a whole, feels the become in its 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 119 

becoming. The stiff mask of causality is lifted by mere ceasing to think. Sud- 
denly, Time is no more a riddle, a notion, a "form" or " dimension* ' but be- 
comes an inner certainty, destiny itself; and in its directedness, its irreversibility > 
its livingness, is disclosed the very meaning of the historical world-picture. 
Destiny and Causality are related as Time and Space. 

In the two possible world-forms then — History and Nature, the physiog- 
nomy of all becoming and the system of all things become — destiny or causality 
prevails. Between them there is all the difference between a feeling of life and 
a method of knowledge. Each of them is the starting-point of a complete and 
self-contained, but not of a unique world. Yet, after all, just as the become is 
founded upon a becoming, so the knowledge of cause and effect is founded upon 
the sure feeling of a destiny. Causality is — so to say — destiny become, des- 
tiny made inorganic and modelled in reason-forms. Destiny itself (passed over 
in silence by Kant and every other builder of rational world-systems because 
with their armoury of abstractions they could not touch life) stands beyond and 
outside all comprehended Nature. Nevertheless, being itself the original, it 
alone gives the stiff dead principle of cause-and-effect the opportunity to figure 
in the later scenes of a culture-drama, alive and historical, as the incarnation 
of a tyrannical thinking. The existence of the Classical soul is the condition for 
the appearance of Democritus's method, the existence of the Faustian soul for 
that of Newton's. We may well imagine that either of these Cultures might 
have failed to produce a natural science of its own, but we cannot imagine the 
systems without their cultural foundations. 

Here again we see how becoming and the become, direction and extension, 
include one another and are subordinated each to the other, according as we 
are in the historical or in the * * natural ' ' focus. If history is that kind of world- 
order in which all the become is fitted to the becoming, then the products of 
scientific work must inter alia be so handled; and, in fact, for the historical eye 
there is only a history of physics. It was Destiny that the discoveries of oxygen, 
Neptune, gravitation and spectrum analysis happened as and when they did. 
It was Destiny that the phlogiston theory, the undulatory theory of light, the 
kinetic theory of gases could arise at all, seeing that they were elucidations of 
results and, as such, highly personal to their respective authors, and that other 
theories (" correct" or "erroneous") might equally well have been developed 
instead. And it is again Destiny and the result of strong personality when one 
theory vanishes and another becomes the lodestar of the physicist's world. 
Even the born physicist speaks of the "fate" of a problem or the "history" 
of a discovery. 

. Conversely, if "Nature" is that constitution of things in which the becom- 
ing should logically be incorporated in the thing-become, and living direction 
in rigid extension, history may best be treated as a chapter of epistemology; 
and so indeed Kant would have treated it if he had remembered to include it 



no THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

at all in his system of knowledge. Significantly enough, he did not; for him as 
for every born systematist Nature is The World, and when he discusses time 
without noticing that it has direction and is irreversible, we see that he is 
dealing with the Nature-world and has no inkling of the possibility of an- 
other, the history-world. Perhaps, for Kant, this other world was actually 
impossible. 

Now, Causality has nothing whatever to do with Time. To the world of to-day, 
made up of Kantians who know not how Kantian they are, this must seem an 
outrageous paradox. And yet every formula of Western physics exhibits the 
44 how" and the **how long" as distinct in essence. As soon as the question 
is pressed home, causality restricts its answer rigidly to the statement that 
something happens — and not when it happens. The ' 4 effect ' ' must of necessity 
be put with the "cause." The distance between them belongs to a different 
order, it lies within the act of understanding itself (which is an element of 
life) and not within the thing or things understood. It is of the essence of the 
extended that it overcomes directedness, and of Space that it contradicts Time, 
and yet the latter, as the more fundamental, precedes and underlies the former. Destiny 
claims the same precedence; we begin with the idea of Destiny, and only later, 
when our waking-consciousness looks fearfully for a spell that will bind in the 
sense-world and overcome the death that cannot be evaded, do we conceive 
causality as an anti-Fate, and make it create another world to -protect us from and 
console us for this. And as the web of cause and effect gradually spreads over the 
visible surfaces there is formed a convincing picture of timeless duration — 
essentially, Being, but Being endowed with attributes by the sheer force of 
pure thought. This tendency underlies the feeling, well known in all mature 
Cultures, that " Knowledge is Power," the power that is meant being power 
over Destiny. The abstract savant, the natural-science researcher, the thinker 
in systems, whose whole intellectual existence bases itself on the causality 
principle, are "late" manifestations of an unconscious hatred of the powers of 
incomprehensible Destiny. "Pure Reason" denies all possibilities that are 
outside itself. Here strict thought and great art are eternally in conflict. The 
one keeps its feet, and the other lets itself go. A man like Kant must always 
feel himself as superior to a Beethoven as the adult is to the child, but this will 
not prevent a Beethoven from regarding the "Critique of Pure Reason" as a 
pitiable sort of philosophy. Teleology, that nonsense of all nonsenses within 
science, is a misdirected attempt to deal mechanically with the living content 
of scientific knowledge (for knowledge implies someone to know, and though 
the substance of thought may be "Nature" the act of thought is history), and 
so with life itself as an inverted causality. Teleology is a caricature of the 
Destiny-idea which transforms the vocation of Dante into the aim of the savant. 
It is the deepest and most characteristic tendency both of Darwinism — the 
megalopolitan-intellectual product of the most abstract of all Civilizations — 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY m 

and of the materialist conception of history which springs from the same root 
as Darwinism and, like it, kills all that is organic and fateful. Thus the mor- 
phological element of the Causal is a Principle, and the morphological element 
of Destiny is an Idea, an idea that is incapable of being "cognized," described 
or defined, and can only be felt and inwardly lived. This idea is something of 
which one is either entirely ignorant or else — like the man of the spring and 
every truly significant man of the late seasons, believer, lover, artist, poet — 
entirely certain. 

Thus Destiny is seen to be the true existence-mode of the -prime phenomenon, that 
in which the living idea of becoming unfolds itself immediately to the intuitive 
vision. And therefore the Destiny-idea dominates the whole world-picture of 
history, while causality, which is the existence-mode of objects and stamps out 
of the world of sensations a set of well-distinguished and well-defined things, 
properties and relations, dominates and penetrates, as the form of the under- 
standing, the Nature-world that is the understanding's "alter ego. ,, # 

But inquiry into the degree of validity of causal connexions within a pre- 
sentation of nature, or (what is henceforth the same thing for us) into the 
destinies involved in that presentation, becomes far more difficult still when we 
come to realize that for primitive man or for the child no comprehensive 
causally-ordered world exists at all as yet and that we ourselves, though "late" 
men with a consciousness disciplined by powerful speech-sharpened thought, 
can do no more, even in moments of the most strained attention (the only 
ones, really, in which we are exactly in the physical focus), than assert that the 
causal order which we see in such a moment is continuously present in the 
actuality around us. Even waking, we take in the actual, "the living garment 
of the Deity," physiognomically, and we do so involuntarily and by virtue of a 
power of experience that is rooted in the deep sources of life. 

A systematic delineation, on the contrary, is the expression of an under- 
standing emancipated from perception, and by means of it we bring the mental 
picture of all times and all men into conformity with the moment's picture of 
Nature as ordered by ourselves. But the mode of this ordering, which has a 
history that we cannot interfere with in the smallest degree, is not the working 
of a cause, but a destiny. 

ii 

The way to the problem of Time, then, begins in the primitive wistfulncss 
and passes through its clearer issue the Destiny-idea. We have now to try to 
outline, briefly, the content of that problem, so far as it affects the subject of 
this book. 

The word Time is a sort of charm to summon up that intensely personal 
something designated earlier as the "proper," which with an inner certainty 
we oppose to the " alien" something that is borne in upon each of us amongst 



itl THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

and within the crowding impressions of the sense-life. "The Proper," "Des- 
tiny" and "Time" are interchangeable words. 

The problem of Time, like that of Destiny, has been completely misunder- 
stood by all thinkers who have confined themselves to the systematic of the 
Become. In Kant's celebrated theory there is not one word about its character 
of directedness. Not only so, but the omission has never even been noticed. 
But what is time as a length, time without direction? Everything living, we 
can only repeat, has "life," direction, impulse, will, a movement-quality (Be- 
wegtheit) that is most intimately allied to yearning and has not the smallest 
element in common with the "motion" (Bewegung) of the physicists. The 
living is indivisible and irreversible, once and uniquely occurring, and its course 
is entirely indeterminable by mechanics. For all such qualities belong to the 
essence of Destiny, and "Time" — that which we actually feel at the sound of 
the word, which is clearer in music than in language, and in poetry than in 
prose — has this organic essence, while Space has not. Hence, Kant and the 
rest notwithstanding, it is impossible to bring Time with Space under one general 
Critique. Space is a conception, but time is a word to indicate something incon- 
ceivable, a sound-symbol, and to use it as a notion, scientifically, is utterly to 
misconceive its nature. Even the word direction — which unfortunately can- 
not be replaced by another — is liable to mislead owing to its visual content. 
The vector-notion in physics is a case in point. 

For primitive man the word ' * time ' ' can have no meaning. He simply lives, 
without any necessity of specifying an opposition to something else. He has 
time, but he knows nothing of it. All of us are conscious, as being aware, of 
space only, and not of time. Space "is," (i.e. exists, in and with our sense- 
world) — as a self-extension while we are living the ordinary life of dream, 
impulse, intuition and conduct, and as space in the strict sense in the 
moments of strained attention. "Time," on the contrary, is a discovery, which 
is only made by thinking. We create it as an idea or notion and do not begin 
till much later to suspect that we ourselves are Time, inasmuch as we live. 1 And 
only the higher Cultures, whose world-conceptions have reached the 
mechanical-Nature stage, are capable of deriving from their consciousness of a 
well-ordered measurable and comprehensible Spatial, the projected image of 
time, the phantom time, 2 which satisfies their need of comprehending, measuring 
and causally ordering all. And this impulse — a sign of the sophistication of 
existence that makes its appearance quite early in every Culture — fashions, 
outside and beyond the real life-feeling, that which is called time in all higher 
languages and has become for the town-intellect a completely inorganic magni- 

1 The sensuous life and the intellectual life too are Time; it is only sensuous experience and in- 
tellectual experience, the "world," that is spatial nature. (As to the nearer affinity of the Feminine 
to Time, see Vol. II, pp. 403 et seq.) 

2 The expression "space of time" (Zeitraum) which is common to many languages, is evidence 
of our inability to represent direction otherwise than by extension. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 113 

tude, as deceptive as it is current. But, if the characteristics, or rather the 
characteristic, of extension — limit and causality — is really wizard's gear where- 
with our proper soul attempts to conjure and bind alien powers — Goethe 
speaks somewhere of the "principle of reasonable order that we bear within 
ourselves and could impress as the seal of our power upon everything that we 
touch" — if all law is a fetter which our world-dread hurries to fix upon the 
incrowding sensuous, a deep necessity of self-preservation, so also the invention 
of a time that is knowable and spatially representable within causality is a later 
act of this same self-preservation, an attempt to bind by the force of notion the 
tormenting inward riddle that is doubly tormenting to the intellect that has 
attained power only to find itself defied. Always a subtle hatred underlies the 
intellectual process by which anything is forced into the domain and form- 
world of measure and law. The living is killed by being introduced into space, 
for space is dead and makes dead. With birth is given death, with the fulfilment 
the end. Something dies within the woman when she conceives — hence comes 
that eternal hatred of the sexes, child of world-fear. The man destroys, in a 
very deep sense, when he begets — by bodily act in the sensuous world, by 
"knowing" in the intellectual. Even in Luther 1 the word "know" has the 
secondary genital sense. And with the 4 4 knowledge ' ' of life — which remains 
alien to the lower animals — the knowledge of death has gained that power 
which dominates man's whole waking consciousness. By a picture of time the 
actual is changed into the transitory. 2 

The mere creation of the name Time was an unparalleled deliverance. To 
name anything by a name is to win power over it. This is the essence of primitive 
man's art of magic — the evil powers are constrained by naming them, and 
the enemy is weakened or killed by coupling certain magic procedures with his 
name. 8 

And there is something of this primitive expression of world-fear in the way 
in which all systematic philosophies use mere names as a last resort for getting 
rid of the Incomprehensible, the Almighty that is all too mighty for the in- 
tellect. We name something or other the "Absolute," and we feel ourselves at 
once its superior. Philosophy, the love of Wisdom, is at the very bottom defence 
against the incomprehensible. What is named, comprehended, measured is 
ipso facto overpowered, made inert and taboo. 4 Once more, "knowledge is 
power." Herein lies one root of the difference between the idealist's and the 
realist's attitude towards the Unapproachable; it is expressed by the two mean- 
ings of the German word Scheu — respect and abhorrence. 5 The idealist con- 

1 I.e., the translated Bible. — Tr. 2 See Vol. II, pp. 19 et seq. 

3 See p. 80 of this volume, and Vol. II, pp. 166, 318. 

4 See Vol. II, p. 137. 

5 The nearest English equivalent is perhaps the word "fear." "Fearful" would correspond 
exactly but for the fact that in the second sense the word is objective instead of subjective. The 
word "shy" itself bears the second meaning in such trivial words as gun-shy, work-shy. — Tr. 



124 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

templates, the realist would subject, mechanize, reader innocuous. Plato and 
Goethe accept the secret in humility, Aristotle and Kant would open it up and 
destroy it. The most deeply significant example of this realism is in its treat- 
ment of the Time problem. The dread mystery of Time, life itself, must be 
spellbound and, by the magic of comprehensibility, neutralized. 

All that has been said about time in " scientific" philosophy, psychology 
and physics — the supposed answer to a question that had better never have 
been asked, namely what is time? — touches, not at any point the secret itself, 
but only a spatially-formed representative phantom. The livingness and directed- 
ness and fated course of real Time is replaced by a figure which, be it never so 
intimately absorbed, is only a line, measurable, divisible, reversible, and not a 
portrait of that which is incapable of being portrayed; by a "time" that can 
be mathematically expressed in such forms as \/t, t 2 , — t, from which the 
assumption of a time of zero magnitude or of negative times is, to say the least, 
not excluded. 1 Obviously this is something quite outside the domain of Life, 
Destiny, and living historical Time; it is a purely conceptual time-system that 
is remote even from the sensuous life. One has only to substitute, in any 
philosophical or physical treatise that one pleases, this word "Destiny" for 
the word "time" and one will instantly see how understanding loses its way 
when language has emancipated it from sensation, and how impossible the 
group "time and space" is. What is not experienced and felt, what is merely 
thought, necessarily takes a spatial form, and this explains why no systematic 
philosopher has been able to make anything out of the mystery-clouded, far- 
echoing sound symbols 4 4 Past * ' and 4 ' Future. ' ' In Kant's utterances concerning 
time they do not even occur, and in fact one cannot see any relation which 
could connect them with what is said there. But only this spatial form enables 
time and space to be brought into functional interdependence as magnitudes 
of the same order, as four-dimensional vector analysis 2 conspicuously shows. 
As early as 1813 Lagrange frankly described mechanics as a four-dimensional 
geometry, and even Newton's cautious conception of "tempus absolutum sive 
duratio" is not exempt from this intellectually inevitable transformation of the 
living into mere extension. In the older philosophy I have found one, and only 
one, profound and reverent presentation of Time; it is in Augustine — "If no 
one questions me, I know: if I would explain to a questioner, I know not." 3 

When philosophers of the present-day West "hedge" — as they all do — 

1 The Relativity theory, a working hypothesis which is on the way to overthrowing Newton's 
mechanics — which means at bottom his view of the problem of motion — admits cases in which 
the words " earlier* ' and "later" may be inverted. The mathematical foundation of this theory 
by Minkowski uses imaginary time units for measurement. 

2 The dimensions are x t y, z. G^ respect of space) and / (in respect of time), and all four appear 
to be regarded as perfectly equivalent in transformations. [The English reader may be referred to 
A. Einstein, "Theory of Relativity," Ch. XI and appendices I, II. — Tr.] 

3 Si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicari velim, nescio. (Conf. XI, 14.) 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY iz 5 

by saying that things are in time as in space and that "outside" them nothing 
is "conceivable," they are merely putting another kind of space (Raumlichkeit) 
beside the ordinary one, just as one might, if one chose, call hope and electric- 
ity the two forces of the universe. It ought not, surely, to have escaped Kant 
when he spoke of the "two forms" of perception, that whereas it is easy 
enough to come to a scientific understanding about space (though not to "ex- 
plain" it, in the ordinary sense of the word, for that is beyond human powers), 
treatment of time on the same lines breaks down utterly. The reader of the 
"Critique of Pure Reason" and the "Prolegomena" will observe that Kant 
gives a well-considered proof for the connexion of space and geometry but 
carefully avoids doing the same for time and arithmetic. There he did not go 
beyond enunciation, and constant reassertion of analogy between the two 
conceptions lured him over a gap that would have been fatal to his system. 
Vis-a-vis the Where and the How, the When forms a world of its own as distinct 
as is metaphysics from physics. Space, object, number, notion, causality are so 
intimately akin that it is impossible — as countless mistaken systems prove — 
to treat the one independently of the other. Mechanics is a copy of the logic 
of its day and vice versa. The picture of thought as psychology builds it up and 
the picture of the space-world as contemporary physics describes it are reflections 
of one another. Conceptions and things, reasons and causes, conclusions and 
processes coincide so nicely, as received by the consciousness, that the abstract 
thinker himself has again and again succumbed to the temptation of setting 
forth the thought- 44 process" graphically and schematically — witness Aris- 
totle's and Kant's tabulated categories. " Where there is no scheme, there is no 
philosophy" is the objection of principle — unacknowledged though it may 
be — that all professional philosophers have against the " intuitives," to whom 
inwardly they feel themselves far superior. That is why Kant crossly describes 
the Platonic style of thinking " as the art of spending good words in babble" 
(die Kunst, wortreich zu schwatzen), and why even to-day the lecture-room 
philosopher has not a word to say about Goethe's philosophy. Every logical 
operation is capable of being drawn, every system a geometrical method of 
handling thoughts. And therefore Time either finds no place in the system 
at all, or is made its victim. 

This is the refutation of that widely-spread misunderstanding which con- 
nects time with arithmetic and space with geometry by superficial analogies, 
an error to which Kant ought never to have succumbed — though it is hardly 
surprising that Schopenhauer, with his incapacity for understanding mathemat- 
ics, did so. Because the living act of numbering is somehow or other related to 
time, number and time are constantly confused. But numbering is not number, 
any more than drawing is a drawing. Numbering and drawing are a becoming, 
numbers and figures are things become. Kant and the rest have in mind now 
the living act (numbering) and now the result thereof (the relations of the 



n6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

finished figure); but the one belongs to the domain of Life and Time, the other 
to that of Extension and Causality. That I calculate is the business of organic, 
what I calculate the business of inorganic, logic. Mathematics as a whole — 
in common language, arithmetic and geometry — answers the How? and the 
What? — that is, the problem of the Natural order of things. In oppo- 
sition to this problem stands that of the When? of things, the specifically 
historical problem of destiny, future and past; and all these things are com- 
prised in the word Chronology, which simple mankind understands fully and 
unequivocally. 

Between arithmetic and geometry there is no opposition. 1 Every kind of 
number, as has been sufficiently shown in an earlier chapter, belongs entirely to 
the realm of the extended and the become, whether as a Euclidean magnitude 
or as an analytical function; and to which heading should we have to assign 
the cyclometric 2 functions, the Binomial Theorem, the Riemann surfaces, the 
Theory of Groups? Kant's scheme was refuted by Euler and d* Alembert before 
he even set it up, and only the unfamiliarity of his successors with the mathe- 
matics of their time — what a contrast to Descartes, Pascal and Leibniz, who 
evolved the mathematics of their time from the depths of their own philosophy! 
— made it possible for mathematical notions of a relation between time and 
arithmetic to be passed on like an heirloom, almost uncriticized. 

But between Becoming and any part whatsoever of mathematics there is not 
the slightest contact. Newton indeed was profoundly convinced (and he was 
no mean philosopher) that in the principles of his Calculus of Fluxions 8 he had 
grasped the problem of Becoming, and therefore of Time — in a far subtler 
form, by the way, than Kant's. But even Newton's view could not be upheld, 
even though it may find advocates to this day. Since Weiers trass proved that 
continuous functions exist which either cannot be differentiated at all or are 
capable only of partial differentiation, this most deep-searching of all efforts 
to close with the Time-problem mathematically has been abandoned. 

in 

Time is a counter-conception (Gegenbe griff) to Space, arising out of Space, just as 
the notion (as distinct from the fact) of Life arises only in opposition to 
thought, and the notion (as distinct from the fact) of birth and generation only 

1 Save in elementary mathematics. (It may be remarked that most philosophers since Schopen- 
hauer have approached these question with the prepossessions of elementary mathematics.) 

2 The "inverse circular functions" of English text-books. — Tr. 

8 The Newtonian form of the differential calculus was distinct from the Leibnizian, which is 
now in general use. Without going into unnecessary detail, the characteristic of Newton's method 
was that it was meant not for the calculation of quadratures and tangents (which had occupied his 
predecessors), nor as an organ of functional theory as such (as the differential calculus became much 
later), but quite definitely as a method of dealing with rate of change in pure mechanics, with the 
"flowing" or "fluxion" of a dependent variable under the influence of a variable which for Newton 
was the "fluent," and which we call the argument of a function. — Tr, 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 127 

in opposition to death. 1 This is implicit in the very essence of all awareness. 
Just as any sense-impression is only remarked when it detaches itself from 
another, so any kind of understanding that is genuine critical activity 2 is only 
made possible through the setting-up of a new concept as anti-pole to one 
already present, or through the divorce (if we may call it so) of a pair of 
inwardly-polar concepts which as long as they are mere constituents, possess no 
actuality. 3 It has long been presumed — and rightly, beyond a doubt — that 
all root-words, whether they express things or properties, have come into being 
by pairs; but even later, even to-day, the connotation that every new word re- 
ceives is a reflection of some other. And so, guided by language, the understand- 
ing, incapable of fitting a sure inward subjective certainty of Destiny into its 
form-world, created * * time ' ' out of space as its opposite. But for this we should 
possess neither the word nor its connotation. And so far is this process of 
word-formation carried that the particular style of extension possessed by the 
Classical world led to a specifically Classical notion of time, differing from the 
time-notions of India, China and the West exactly as Classical space differs from 
the space of these Cultures. 4 

For this reason, the notion of an art-form — which again is a " counter- 
concept" — has only arisen when men became aware that their art-creations 
had a connotation (Gehalt) at all, that is, when the expression-language of the 
art, along with its effects, had ceased to be something perfectly natural and 
taken-for-granted, as it still was in the time of the Pyramid-Builders, in that 
of the Mycenaean strongholds and in that of the early Gothic cathedrals. Men 
become suddenly aware of the existence of 4< works," and then for the first time 
the understanding eye is able to distinguish a causal side and a destiny side in 
every living art. 

In every work that displays the whole man and the whole meaning of the 
existence, fear and longing lie close together, but they are and they remain 
different. To the fear, to the Causal, belongs the whole " taboo" side of art — 
its stock of motives, developed in strict schools and long craft-training, care- 
fully protected and piously transmitted; all of it that is comprehensible, learn- 
able, numerical; all the logic of colour, line, structure, order, which constitutes 
the mother-tongue of every worthy artist and every great epoch. But the other 
side, opposed to the " taboo" as the directed is to the extended and as the de- 
velopment-destiny within a form-language to its syllogisms, comes out in 
genius (namely, in that which is wholly personal to the individual artists, their 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 13, 19. 

2 See Vol. H, p. 16. 

8 The original reads: "(So ist jede Art von Verstehen . . . nur dadurch moglich . . .) dass 
ein Begriffspaar von innerem Gegensatz gewissermassen durch Auseinandertreten erst Wirklichkeit 
erhak." — Tr. 

At this point the German text repeats the paragraph which in this edition begins at "But 
inquiry" (p. in) and ends at the close of section I (p. 12.1). — Tr. 



12.8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

imaginative powers, creative passion, depth and richness, as against all mere 
mastery of form) and, beyond even genius, in that superabundance of creative- 
ness in the race which conditions the rise and fall of whole arts. This is the 
*' totem" side, and owing to it — notwithstanding all the aesthetics ever 
penned — there is no timeless and solely-true way of art, but only a history of 
art, marked like everything that lives with the sign of irreversibility. 1 

And this is why architecture of the grand style — which is the only one of 
the arts that handles the alien and fear-instilling itself, the immediate Extended, 
the stone — is naturally the early art in all Cultures, and only step by step 
yields its primacy to the special arts of the city with their more mundane 
forms — the statue, the picture, the musical composition. Of all the great 
artists of the West, it was probably Michelangelo who suffered most acutely 
under the constant nightmare of world-fear, and it was he also who, alone 
among the Renaissance masters, never freed himself from the architectural. 
He even painted as though his surfaces were stone, become, stiff, hateful. His 
work was a bitter wrestle with the powers of the cosmos which faced him and 
challenged him in the form of material, whereas in the yearning Leonardo's 
colour we see, as it were, a glad materialization of the spritual. But in every 
large architectural problem an implacable causal logic, not to say mathematic, 
comes to expression — in the Classical orders of columns a Euclidean relation 
of beam and load, in the " analytically" disposed thrust-system of Gothic vault- 
ing the dynamic relation of force and mass. Cottage-building traditions — 
which are to be traced in the one and in the other, which are the necessary back- 
ground even of Egyptian architecture, which in fact develop in every early 
period and are regularly lost in every later — contain the whole sum of this 
logic of the extended. But the symbolism of direction and destiny is beyond 
all the "technique" of the great arts and hardly approachable by way of 
aesthetics. It lies — to take some instances — in the contrast that is always 
felt (but never, either by Lessing or by Hebbel, elucidated) between Classical 
and Western tragedy; in the succession of scenes of old Egyptian relief and 
generally in the serial arrangement of Egyptian statues, sphinxes, temple-halls; 
in the choice, as distinct from the treatment, of materials (hardest diorite to 
affirm, and softest wood to deny, the future); in the occurrence, and not in the 
grammar, of the individual arts, e.g., the victory of arabesque over the Early 
Christian picture, the retreat of oil-painting before chamber music in the 
Baroque; in the utter diversity of intention in Egyptian, Chinese and Classical 
statuary. All these are not matters of 4 ' can ' ' but of * * must, * ' and therefore it is 
not mathematics and abstract thought, but the great arts in their kinship with 
the contemporary religions, that give the key to the problem of Time, a problem 
that can hardly be solved within the domain of history 2 alone. 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 137, 159. 

a Here the author presumably means history in the ordinary acceptation of the word. — Tr* 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY il 3 

IV 

It follows from the meaning that we have attached to the Culture as a prime 
phenomenon and to destiny as the organic logic of existence, that each Culture 
must necessarily possess its own destiny-idea. Indeed, this conclusion is im- 
plicit from the first in the feeling that every great Culture is nothing but the 
actualizing and form of a single, singularly-constituted (einzigartig) soul. 
And what cannot be felt by one sort of men exactly as it is felt by another (since 
the life of each is the expression of the idea proper to himself) and still less 
transcribed, what is named by us "conjuncture," "accident," "Providence" 
or "Fate," by Classical man "Nemesis," "Ananke," "Tyche" or "Fatum," 
by the Arab "Kismet," by everyone in some way of his own, is just that of 
which each unique and unreproduceable soul-constitution, quite clear to those 
who share in it, is a rendering. 

The Classical form of the Destiny-idea I shall venture to call Euclidean. 
Thus it is the sense-actual person of CEdipus, his "empirical ego," nay, his 
cr&ixa that is hunted and thrown by Destiny. CEdipus complains that Creon 
has misused his "body" x and that the oracle applied to his "body." 2 JEschy- 
lus, again, speaks of Agamemnon as the "royal body, leader of fleets." 3 It is 
this same word crufxa that the mathematicians employ more than once for the 
"bodies" with which they deal. But the destiny of King Lear is of the " ana- 
lytical" type — to use here also the term suggested by the corresponding 
number-world — and consists in dark inner relationships. The idea of father- 
hood emerges; spiritual threads weave themselves into the action, incorporeal 
and transcendental, and are weirdly illuminated by the counterpoint of the 
secondary tragedy of Gloster's house. Lear is at the last a mere name, the axis 
of something unbounded. This conception of destiny is the "infinitesimal" 
conception. It stretches out into infinite time and infinite space. It touches 
the bodily, Euclidean existence not at all, but affects only the Soul. Consider 
the mad King between the fool and the outcast in the storm on the heath, and 
then look at the Laocoon group; the first is the Faustian, the other the Apollin- 
ian way of suffering. Sophocles, too, wrote a Laocoon drama; and we may be 
certain that there was nothing of pure soul-agony in it. Antigone goes below 
ground in the body, because she has buried her brother's body. Think of Ajax 
and Philoctetes, and then of the Prince of Homburg and Goethe's Tasso — is 
not the difference between magnitude and relation traceable right into the 
depths of artistic creation? 

This brings us to another connexion of high symbolic significance. The 
drama of the West is ordinarily designated Character-Drama. That of the 

1 (Ed. Rex., 642.. kclkQs klkq4>a rbvyubv aQfia aw rkx^V k<xkq- (C£ Rudolf Hirsch, Die Person 
(1914), p. 9.) 

2 (Ed. Col., 355. fxavT&a ... & tovS* kxpfoBv auyfiaros. 

3 Cboepbora, 710. M vav&pxv a&iiiart,... tQ pacnXelqp. 



13 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Greeks, on the other hand, is best described as Situation-Drama, and in l:he 
antithesis we can perceive what it is that Western, and what it is that Classical, 
man respectively feel as the basic life-form that is imperilled by the onsets of 
tragedy and fate. If in lieu of " direction" we say " irreversibility,' ' if we let 
ourselves sink into the terrible meaning of those words "too late" wherewith 
we resign a fleeting bit of the present to the eternal past, we find the deep founda- 
tion of every tragic crisis. It is Time that is the tragic, and it is by the meaning 
that it intuitively attaches to Time that one Culture is differentiated from 
another; and consequently "tragedy" of the grand order has only developed in. 
the Culture which has most passionately affirmed, and in that which has most 
passionately denied, Time. The sentiment of the ahistoric soul gives us a 
Classical tragedy of the moment, and that of the ultrahistorical soul puts before 
us Western tragedy that deals with the development of a whole life. Our tragedy 
arises from the feeling of an inexorable Logic of becoming, while the Greek feels 
the illogical , blind Casual of the moment — the life of Lear matures inwardly to- 
wards a catastrophe, and that of CEdipus stumbles without warning upon a 
situation. And now one may perceive how it is that synchronously with 
Western drama there rose and fell a mighty portrait-art (culminating in Rem- 
brandt), a kind of historical and biographical art which (because it was so) was 
sternly discountenanced in Classical Greece at the apogee of Attic drama. 
Consider the veto on likeness-statuary in votive offerings l and note how — 
from Demetrius of Alopeke (about 400) 2 — a timid art of "ideal" portraiture 
began to venture forth when, and only when, grand tragedy had been thrown 
into the background by the light society-pieces of the "Middle Comedy." 3 
Fundamentally all Greek statues were standard masks, like the actors in the 
theatre of Dionysus; all bring to expression, in significantly strict form, somatic 
attitudes and positions. Physiognomically they are dumb, corporeal and of 
necessity nude — character-heads of definite individuals came only with the 
Hellenistic age. Once more we are reminded of the contrast between the Greek 
number-world, with its computations of tangible results, and the other, our 
own, in which the relations between groups of functions or equations or, gener- 

1 Phidias, and through him his patron Pericles, were attacked for alleged introduction of 
portraits upon the shield of Athene Parthenos. In Western religious art, on the contrary, portraiture 
was, as everyone knows, a habitual practice. Every Madonna, for instance, is more or less of a por- 
trait. 

With this may be compared again the growing resistance of Byzantine art, as it matured, to 
portraiture in sacred surroundings, evidenced for instance in the history of the nimbus or halo — which 
was removed from the insignia of the Prince to become the badge of the Saint — in the legend of the 
miraculous effacement of Justinian's pompous inscription on Hagia Sophia, and in the banishment 
of the human patron from the celestial part of the church to the earthly. — Tr. 

2 Who was criticized as "no god-maker but a man-maker* * and as one who spoilt the beauty of 
his work by aiming at likeness. 

Cresilas, the sculptor from whom the only existing portrait of Pericles is derived, was a little 
earlier; in him, however, the "ideal" was still the supreme aim. — Tr. 
* The writers immediately succeeding Aristophanes. — Tr. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 131 

ally, formula-elements of the same order are investigated morphologically, and 
the character of these relations fixed as such in express laws. 



In the capacity of experientially living history and the way in which history, 
particularly the history of personal becoming, is lived, one man differs very 
greatly from another. 

Every Culture possesses a wholly individual way of looking at and compre- 
hending the world-as-Nature; or (what comes to the same thing) it has its own 
peculiar "Nature" which no other sort of man can possess in exactly the same 
form. But in a far greater degree still, every Culture — including the individu- 
als comprising it (who are separated only by minor distinctions) — possesses 
a specific and peculiar sort of history — and it is in the picture of this and the 
style of this that the general and the personal, the inner and the outer, the 
world-historical and the biographical becoming, are immediately perceived, 
felt and lived. Thus the autobiographical tendency of Western man — re- 
vealed even in Gothic times in the symbol of auricular confession * — is utterly 
alien to Classical man; while his intense historical awareness is in complete 
contrast to the almost dreamy unconsciousness of the Indian. And when 
Magian man — primitive Christian or ripe scholar of Islam — uses the words 
"world-history," what is it that he sees before him? 

But it is difficult enough to form an exact idea even of the "Nature" proper 
to another kind of man, although in this domain things specifically cognizable 
are causally ordered and unified in a communicable system. And it is quite 
impossible for us to penetrate completely a historical world-aspect of "beconb 
ing" formed by a soul that is quite differently constituted from our own. Here 
there must always be an intractable residue, greater or smaller in proportion 
to our historical instinct, physiognomic tact and knowledge of men. All the 
same, the solution of this very problem is the condition-precedent of all really 
deep understanding of the world. The historical environment of another is a 
part of his essence, and no such other can be understood without the knowledge 
of his time-sense, his destiny-idea and the style and degree of acuity of his inner 
life. In so far therefore as these things are not directly confessed, we have to 
extract them from the symbolism of the alien Culture. And as it is thus and 
only thus that we can approach the incomprehensible, the style of an alien 
Culture, and the great time-symbols belonging thereto acquire an immeasurable 
importance. 

As an example of these hitherto almost uncomprehended signs we may take 
the clock, a creation of highly developed Cultures that becomes more and more 
mysterious as one examines it. Classical man managed to do without the clock, 
and his abstention was more or less deliberate. To the Augustan period, and 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 360 ct scq. 



i 3 i THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

far beyond it, the time of day was estimated by the length of one's shadow, 1 
although sun-dials and water-clocks, designed in conformity with a strict 
time-reckoning and imposed by a deep sense of past and future, had been in 
regular use in both the older Cultures of Egypt and Babylonia. 2 Classical man's 
existence — Euclidean, relationless, point-formed — was wholly contained in 
the instant. Nothing must remind him of past or future. For the true Classical, 
archaeology did not exist, nor did its spiritual inversion, astrology. The Oracle 
and the Sibyl, like the Etruscan-Roman "haruspices" and "augurs," did not 
foretell any distant future but merely gave indications on particular questions 
of immediate bearing. No time-reckoning entered intimately into everyday 
life (for the Olympiad sequence was a mere literary expedient) and what really 
matters is not the goodness or badness of a calendar but the questions: "who 
uses it? ' ' and * ' does the life of the nation run by it? ' ' In Classical cities nothing 
suggested duration, or old times or times to come — there was no pious pres- 
ervation of ruins, no work conceived for the benefit of future generations; in 
them we do not find that durable 3 material was deliberately chosen. The 
Dorian Greek ignored the Mycenaean stone-technique and built in wood or 
clay, though Mycenasan and Egyptian work was before him and the country 
produced first-class building-stone. The Doric style is a timber style — even 
in Pausanias's day some wooden columns still lingered in the Herasum of 
Olympia. The real organ of history is " memory ' * in the sense which is always 
postulated in this book, viz., that which preserves as a constant present the 
image of one's personal past and of a national and a world-historical past 4 as 
well, and is conscious of the course both of personal and of super-personal 
becoming. That organ was not present in the make-up of a Classical soul. 
There was no "Time" in it. Immediately behind his proper present, the 
Classical historian sees a background that is already destitute of temporal and 
therefore of inward order. For Thucydides the Persian Wars, for Tacitus the 
agitation of the Gracchi, were already in this vague background; 6 and the 
great families of Rome had traditions that were pure romance — witness 

1 Diels, Antike Tecbnik (192-0), p. 159. 

8 About 400 b.c. savants began to construct crude sun-dials in Africa and Ionia, and from Plato's 
time still more primitive clepsydrae came into use; but in both forms, the Greek clock was a mere 
imitation of the far superior models of the older East, and it had not the slightest connexion with 
the Greek life-feeling. See Diels, op. cit. t pp. 160 et seq. 

3 Horace's monumtntum art perermius (Odes III, 30) may seem to conflict with this: but let the 
reader reconsider the whole of that ode in the light of the present argument, and turn also to Leu- 
conoe and her " Babylonian " impieties (Odes 1, 11) inter alia, and he will probably agree that so far 
as Horace is concerned, the argument is supported rather than impugned. — Tr. 

4 Ordered, for us, by the Christian chronology and the ancient-mediseval-modern scheme. It 
was on those foundations that, from early Gothic times, the images of religion and of art have been 
built up in which a large part of Western humanity continues to live. To predicate the same of 
Plato or Phidias is quite impossible, whereas the Renaissance artists could and did project a classical 
past, which indeed they permitted to dominate their judgments completely. 

5 See pp. 9. et seq. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 133 

Caesar's slayer, Brutus, with his firm belief in his reputed tyrannicide an- 
cestor. Caesar's reform of the calendar may almost be regarded as a deed 
of emancipation from the Classical life-feeling. But it must not be forgotten 
that Cassar also imagined a renunciation of Rome and a transformation of 
the City-State into an empire which was to be dynastic — marked with the 
badge of duration — and to have its centre of gravity in Alexandria, which 
in fact is the birthplace of his calendar. His assassination seems to us a last 
outburst of the antiduration feeling that was incarnate in the Polls and the 
Urbs Roma. 

Even then Classical mankind was still living every hour and every day for 
itself; and this is equally true whether we take the individual Greek or Roman, 
or the city, or the nation, or the whole Culture. The hot-blooded pageantry, 
palace-orgies, circus-battles of Nero or Caligula — Tacitus is a true Roman 
in describing only these and ignoring the smooth progress of life in the distant 
provinces — are final and flamboyant expressions of the Euclidean world-feeling 
that deified the body and the present. 

The Indians also have no sort of time-reckoning (the absence of it in their 
case expressing their Nirvana) and no clocks, and therefore no history, no life 
memories, no care. What the conspicuously historical West calls "Indian 
history" achieved itself without the smallest consciousness of what it was 
doing. 1 The millennium of the Indian Culture between the Vedas and Buddha 
seems like the stirrings of a sleeper; here life was actually a, dream. From all 
this our Western Culture is unimaginably remote. And, indeed, man has never 
— not even in the "contemporary" China of the Ch6u period with its highly- 
developed sense of eras and epochs 2 — been so awake and aware, so deeply 
sensible of time and conscious of direction and fate and movement as he has 
been in the West. Western history was willed and Indian history happened. In 
Classical existence years, in Indian centuries scarcely counted, but here the hour, 
the minute, yea the second, is of importance. Of the tragic tension of a histori- 
cal crisis like that of August, 1914, when even moments seem overpowering, 
neither a Greek nor an Indian could have had any idea. 8 Such crises, too, a 
deep-feeling man of the West can experience within himself, as a true Greek could 

1 The Indian history of our books is a Western reconstruction from texts and monuments. See 
the chapter on epigraphy in the "Indian Gazetteer," Vol. II. — Tr. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 481, 511 et seq. 

8 There is one famous episode in Greek history that may be thought to contradict this — the 
race against time of the galley sent to Mitylene to countermand the order of massacre (Thucydides, 
III, 49). But we observe that Thucydides gives twenty times the space to the debates at Athens that 
he gives to the drama of the galley-rowers pulling night and day to save life. And we are told 
that it was the Mitylenean ambassadors who spared no expense to make it worth the rowers' while 
to win, whereupon "there arose such a zeal of rowing that ..." The final comment is, strictly 
construing Thucydides's own words: "Such was the magnitude of the danger that Mitylene passed 
by" (jrapb. Toabvrov fiev fj MuriX^ fj\de Kivhbvov), a phrase which recalls forcibly what has just 
been said regarding the "situation-drama." — Tr. 



i 3 4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

never do. Over our country-side, day and night from thousands of belfries, 
ring the bells 1 that join future to past and fuse the point-moments of the Classi- 
cal present into a grand relation. The epoch which marks the birth of our 
Culture — the time of the Saxon Emperors — marks also the discovery of the 
wheel-clock. 2 Without exact time-measurement, without a chronology of be- 
coming to correspond with his imperative need of archaeology (the preservation, 
excavation and collection of things-become), Western man is unthinkable. The 
Baroque age intensified the Gothic symbol of the belfry to the point of gro- 
tesqueness, and produced the pocket watch that constantly accompanies the 
individual. 3 

Another symbol, as deeply significant and as little understood as the symbol 
of the clock, is that of the funeral customs which all great Cultures have con- 
secrated by ritual and by art. The grand style in India begins- with tomb- 
temples, in the Classical world with funerary urns, in Egypt with pyramids, 
in early Christianity with catacombs and sarcophagi. In the dawn, innumerable 
equally-possible forms still cross one another chaotically and obscurely, de- 
pendent on clan-custom and external necessities and conveniences. But every 
Culture promptly elevates one or another of them to the highest degree of 
symbolism. Classical man, obedient to his deep unconscious life-feeling, 
picked upon burning, an act of annihilation in which the Euclidean, the here- 
and-now, type of existence was powerfully expressed. He willed to have no 
history, no duration, neither past nor future, neither preservation nor dissolu- 
tion, and therefore he destroyed that which no longer possessed a present, the 
body of a Pericles, a Cassar, a Sophocles, a Phidias. And the soul passed to 
join the vague crowd to which the living members of the clan paid (but soon 
ceased to pay) the homage of ancestor-worship and soul-feast, and which in its 
formlessness presents an utter contrast to the ancestor-j^w, the genealogical tree, 
that is eternalized with all the marks of historical order in the family-vault of 
the West. In .this (with one striking exception, the Vedic dawn in India) no 

1 Besides the clock, the bell itself is a Western "symbol." The passing-bell tolled for St. 
Hilda of Whitby in 680, and a century before that time bells had come into general use in Gaul 
both for monasteries and for parish churches. On the contrary, it was not till 865 that Constanti- 
nople possessed bells, and these were presented in that year by Venice. The presence of a belfry in 
a Byzantine church is accounted a proof of "Western influence": the East used and still largely uses 
mere gongs and rattles for religious purposes. (British Museum "Handbook of Early Christian 
Antiquities)" — Tr. 

2 May we be permitted to guess that the Babylonian sun-dial and the Egyptian water-clock came 
into being "simultaneously," that is, on the threshold of the third millennium before Christ? The 
history of clocks is inwardly inseparable from that of the calendar; it is therefore to be assumed that 
the Chinese and the Mexican Cultures also, with their deep sense of history, very early devised and 
used methods of time-measurement. 

(The Mexican Culture developed the most intricate of all known systems of indicating year 
and day. See British Museum " Handbook of May on Antiquities. — Tr.) 

8 Let the reader try to imagine what a Greek would feel when suddenly made acquainted with 
this custom of ours. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 135 

other Culture parallels the Classical. 1 And be it noted that the Doric-Homeric 
spring, and above all the "Iliad," invested this act of burning with all the vivid 
feeling of a new-born symbol; for those very warriors whose deeds probably 
formed the nucleus of the epic were in fact buried almost in the Egyptian manner 
in the graves of Mycense, Tiryns, Orchomenos and other places. And when in 
Imperial times the sarcophagus or 44 flesh-consumer" 2 began to supersede the 
vase of ashes, it was again, as in the time when the Homeric urn superseded 
the shaft-grave of Mycense, a changed sense of Time that underlay the change 
of rite. 

The Egyptians, who preserved their past in memorials of stone and 
hieroglyph so purposefully that we, four thousand years after them, can 
determine the order of their kings* reigns, so thoroughly eternalized their 
bodies that today the great Pharaohs lie in our museums, recognizable in 
every lineament, a symbol of grim triumph — while of Dorian kings not even 
the names have survived. For our own part, we know the exact birthdays 
and deathdays of almost every great man since Dante, and, moreover, we 
see nothing strange in the fact. Yet in the time of Aristotle, the very zenith 
of Classical education, it was no longer known with certainty if Leucippus, 
the founder of Atomism and a contemporary of Pericles — i.e., hardly a 
century before — had ever existed at all; much as though for us the existence 
of Giordano Bruno was a matter of doubt 3 and the Renaissance had become 
pure saga. 

And these museums themselves, in which we assemble everything that is 
left of the corporeally-sensible past! Are not they a symbol of the highest rank? 
Are they not intended to conserve in mummy the entire "body" of cultural 
development? 

As we collect countless data in milliards of printed books, do we not 
also collect all the works of all the dead Cultures in these myriad halls of 
West-European cities, in the mass of the collection depriving each indi- 
vidual piece of that instant of actualized purpose that is its own — the 

1 The Chinese ancestor- worship honoured genealogical order with strict ceremonies. And 
whereas here ancestor- worship by degrees came to be the centre of all piety, in the Classical world 
it was driven entirely into the background by the cults of present gods; in Roman times it hardly 
existed at all. 

(Note the elaborate precautions taken in the Athenian " Anthesteria " to keep the anonymous 
mass of ghosts at bay. This feast was anything but an All Souls' Day of re-communion with the 
departed spirits. — Tr.) 

j 2 With obvious reference to the resurrection of the flesh (kic v&cpQv). But the meaning of the 
term "resurrection" has undergone, from about 1000 a.d., a profound — though hardly noticed — 
change. More and more it has tended to become identified with "immortality." But in the resur- 
rection from the dead, the implication is that time begins again to repeat in space, whereas in "im- 
mortality" it is time that overcomes space. 

3 For English readers, the most conspicuous case of historic doubt is the Shakespeare-Bacon 
matter. But even here, it is only the work of Shakespeare that is in question, not his existence and 
personality, for which we have perfectly definite evidence. — Tr. 



136 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

one property that the Classical soul would have respected — and ipso facto 
dissolving it into our unending and unresting Time? Consider what it 
was that the Hellenes named MovcreTov; l how deep a significance lies in the 
change of sense! 

VI 

It is the primitive feeling of Care 2 which dominates the physiognomy of 
Western, as also that of Egyptian and that of Chinese history, and it creates, 
further, the symbolism of the erotic which represents the flowing on of endless 
life in the form of the familial series of individual existences. The point- 
formed Euclidean existence of Classical man, in this matter as in others, con- 
ceived only the here-and-now definitive act of begetting or of bearing, and thus 
it comes about that we find the birth-pangs of the mother made the centre of 
Demeter-worship and the Dionysiac symbol of the phallus (the sign of a 
sexuality wholly concentrated on the moment and losing past and future in it) 
more or less everywhere in the Classical. In the Indian world we find, corre- 
spondingly, the sign of the Lingam and the sect of worshippers of Paewati. 3 
In the one case as in the other, man feels himself as nature, as a plant, as a will- 
less and care-less element of becoming (dem Sinn des Werdens willenlos und 
sorglos hingegeben). The domestic religion of Rome centred on the genius, 
i.e., the creative power of the head of the family. To all this, the deep and 
thoughtful care of the Western soul has opposed the sign of mother-love, a 
symbol which in the Classical Culture only appeared above the horizon to 
the extent that we see it in, say, the mourning for Persephone or (though 
this is only Hellenistic) the seated statue of Demeter of Knidos. 4 The Mother 
with the Child — the future — at her breast, the Mary-cult in the new Faus- 
tian form, began to flourish only in the centuries of the Gothic and found 
its highest expression in Raphael's Sistine Madonna. 5 This conception is 

1 Originally a philosophical and scientific lecture-temple founded in honour of Aristotle, and 
later the great University of Alexandria, bore the title Movcrelov. Both Aristotle and the University 
amassed collections but they were collections of (a) books, (b) natural history specimens, living or 
taken from life. In the West, the collection of memorials of the past as such dates from the earliest 
days of the Renaissance. — Tr. 

2 The connotation of "care" is almost the same as that of "Sorge," but the German word in- 
cludes also a certain specific, ad hoc apprehension, that in English is expressed by "concern" or 
"fear/' — Tr. 

3 The Lingayats are one of the chief sects of the Saivas (that is, of the branch of Hinduism which 
devotes itself to Shiva) and Paewati worshippers belong to another branch, having the generic name 
of Saktas, who worship the " active female principle" in the persons of Shiva's consorts, of whom 
Paewati is one. Vaishnavism — the Vishnu branch of Indian religion — also contains an erotic 
element in that form which conceives Vishnu as Krishna. But in Krishna worship the erotic is rather 
less precise and more amorous in character. 

See "Imperial Gazetteer of India," Vol. I, pp. 42.1 et seq., and Ency. Brit., XI Edition, article 
Hinduism. — Tr. 

4 British Museum. — Tr. 
6 Dresden. — Tr. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 137 

not one belonging to Christianity generally. On the contrary, Magian Chris- 
tianity had elevated Mary as Theotokos, "she who gave birth to God" x 
into a symbol felt quite otherwise than by us. The lulling Mother is as 
alien to Early-Christian-Byzantine art as she is to the Hellenic (though for 
other reasons) and most certainly Faust's Gretchen, with the deep spell of un- 
conscious motherhood on her, is nearer to the Gothic Madonna than all the 
Marys of Byzantine and Ravennate mosaics. Indeed, the presumption of a 
spiritual relation between them breaks down completely before the fact that 
the Madonna with the Child answers exactly to the Egyptian Isis with Horus — 
both are caring, nursing mothers — and that nevertheless this symbol had 
vanished for a thousand years and more (for the whole duration of the Classical 
and the Arabian Cultures) before it was reawakened by the Faustian soul. 2 

From the maternal care the way leads to the paternal, and there we meet 
with the highest of all the time-symbols that have come into existence within 
a Culture, the State. The meaning of the child to the mother is the future, the 
continuation, namely, of her own life,and mother-love is, as it were, a welding 
of two discontinuous individual existences; likewise, the meaning of the state 
to the man is comradeship in arms for the protection of hearth and home, wife 
and child, and for the insurance for the whole pecple of its future and its efficacy. 
The state is the inward form of a nation, its "form" in the athletic sense, and 
history, in the high meaning, is the State conceived as kinesis and not as kinema 
(nicht als Bewegtes sondern als Bewegung gedacht). The Woman as Mother is, 
and the Man as Warrior and Politician makes, History? 

And here again the history of higher Cultures shows us three examples of 
state-formations in which the element of care is conspicuous: the Egyptian 
administration even of the Old Kingdom (from 3000 B.C.); the Chinese state 
of the Chou dynasty (11 69-2.5 6 b.c), of the organization of which the Ch6u Li 
gives such a picture that, later on, no one dared to believe in the authenticity 
of the book; and the states of the West, behind whose characteristic eye-to- 
the-future there is an unsurpassably intense Will to the future. 4 And on the 
other hand we have in two examples — the Classical and the Indian world — 
a picture of utterly care-less submission to the moment and its incidents. 

1 See Vol. II, p. 316. 

2 In connexion with this very important link in the Author's argument, attention may be drawn 
to a famous wall-painting of very early date in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla. In this, Mary is defi- 
nitely and unmistakably the Stillende Mutter. But she is, equally unmistakably, different in soul and 
style from her "Early-Christian-Byzantine" successor the Theotokos. Now, it is well known that 
the art of the catacombs, at any rate in its beginnings, is simply the art of contemporary Rome, and 
that this "Roman" art had its home in Alexandria. See Woermann's Geschichte der Kunst, III, 
14-15, and British Museum "Guide to Early Christian Art," 72.-74, 86. Woermann speaks of this 
Madonna as the prototype of our grave, tenderly-solicitous Mother-Madonnas. Dr. Spengler would 
probably prefer to regard her as the last Isis. In any case it is significant that the symbol disappears: 
in the very same catacomb is a Theotokos of perhaps a century later date. — Tr. 

s Vol. II, pp. 403 et seq. 

< See, further, the last two sections of Vol. II (Der Staat and Wirtschaftslebeti). — Tr, 



138 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Different in themselves as are Stoicism and Buddhism (the old-age dispositions' 
of these two worlds), they are at one in their negation of the historical feeling 
of care, their contempt of zeal, of organizing power, and of the duty-sense; 
and therefore neither in Indian courts nor in Classical market-places was there 
a thought for the morrow, personal or collective. The carp diem of Apollinian 
man applies also to the Apollinian state. 

As with the political, so with the other side of historical existence, the 
economic. The hand-to-mouth life corresponds to the love that begins and 
ends in the satisfaction of the moment. There was an economic organization 
on the grand scale in Egypt, where it fills the whole culture-picture, telling 
us in a thousand paintings the story of its industry and orderliness; in China, 
whose mythology of gods and legend-emperors turns entirely upon the holy 
tasks of cultivation; and in Western Europe, where, beginning with the model 
agriculture of the Orders, it rose to the height of a special science, "national 
economy,' ' which was in very principle a working hypothesis, purporting to show 
not what happens but what shall happen. In the Classical world, on the other 
hand — to say nothing of India — men managed from day to day, in spite of 
the example of Egypt; the earth was robbed not only of its wealth but of its 
capacities, and the casual surpluses were instantly squandered on the city 
mob. Consider critically any great statesman of the Classical — Pericles and 
Caesar, Alexander and Scipio, and even revolutionaries like Cleon and Tiberius 
Gracchus. Not one of them, economically, looked far ahead. No city ever 
made it its business to drain or to afforest a district, or to introduce advanced 
cultivation methods or new kinds of live stock or new plants. To attach a 
Western meaning to the "agrarian reform" of the Gracchi is to misunderstand 
its purport entirely. Their aim was to make their supporters possessors of land. 
Of educating these into managers of land, or of raising the standard of Italian 
husbandry in general, there was not the remotest idea — one let the future 
come, one did not attempt to work upon it. Of this economic Stoicism of the 
Classical world the exact antithesis is Socialism, meaning thereby not Marx's 
theory but" Frederick William I's Prussian practice which long preceded Marx 
and will yet displace him — the socialism, inwardly akin to the system of Old 
Egypt, that comprehends and cares for permanent economic relations, trains 
the individual in his duty to the whole, and glorifies hard work as an affirma- 
tion of Time and Future. 

VII 

The ordinary everyday man in all Cultures only observes so much of the 
physiognomy of becoming — his own and that of the living world around him 
— as is in the foreground and immediately tangible. The sum of his experi- 
ences, inner and outer, fills the course of his day merely as a series of facts. 
Only the outstanding (bedeutende) man feels behind the commonplace unities 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 139 

of the history-stirred surface a deep logic of becoming. This logic, manifesting 
itself in the idea of Destiny, leads him to regard the less significant collocations 
of the day and the surface as mere incidents. 

At first sight, however, there seems to be only a difference of degree in the 
connotations of "destiny" and "incident." One feels that it is more or less 
of an incident when Goethe goes to Sesenheim, but destiny when he goes to 
Weimar; * one regards the former as an episode and the latter as an epoch. But 
we can see at once that the distinction depends on the inward quality of the 
man who is impressed. To the mass, the whole life of Goethe may appear as a 
sequence of anecdotal incidents, while a very few will become conscious, with 
astonishment, of a symbolic necessity inherent even in its most trivial occur- 
rences. Perhaps, then, the discovery of the heliocentric system by Aristarchus 
was an unmeaning incident for the Classical Culture, but its supposed 2 redis- 
covery by Copernicus a destiny for the Faustian? Was it a destiny that Luther 
was not a great organizer and Calvin was? And if so, for whom was it a des- 
tiny — for Protestantism as a living unit, for the Germans, or for Western 
mankind generally? Were Tiberius Gracchus and Sulla incidents and Csesar a 
destiny? 

Questions like these far transcend the domain of the understanding that 
operates through concepts (der begriffliche Verstandigung). What is destiny, 
what incident, the spiritual experiences of the individual soul — and of the 
Culture-soul — decide. Acquired knowledge, scientific insight, definition, are 
all powerless. Nay more, the very attempt to grasp them epistemologically 
defeats its own object. For without the inward certainty that destiny is some- 
thing entirely intractable to critical thought, we cannot perceive the world of 
becoming at all. Cognition, judgment, and the establishment of causal con- 
nexions within the known (i.e., between things, properties, and positions that 
have been distinguished) are one and the same, and he who approaches history 
in the spirit of judgment will only find "data." But that — be it Providence or 
Fate — which moves in the depths of present happening or of represented past 
happening is lived, and only lived, and lived with that same overwhelming 
and unspeakable certainty that genuine Tragedy awakens in the uncritical 
spectator. Destiny and incident form an opposition in which the soul is cease- 
lessly trying to clothe something which consists only of feeling and living and 
intuition, and can only be made plain in the most subjective religious and 
artistic creations of those men who are called to divination. To evoke this 
root-feeling of living existence which endows the picture of history with its 
meaning and content, I know of no better way — for " name is mere noise and 

1 Sesenheim is the home of Friederike, and a student's holiday took him thither: Weimar, of 
course, is the centre from which all the activity of his long life was to radiate. — Tr. 

2 Vermeintlich. The allusion is presumably to the fact that Copernicus, adhering to the hypothe- 
sis of circular orbits, was obliged to retain some elements of Ptolemy's geocentric machinery of 
epicycles, so that Copernicus's sun was not placed at the true centre of any planetary orbit. — TV. 



i 4 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

smoke" — than to quote again those stanzas of Goethe which I have placed at 

the head of this book to mark its fundamental intention. 

"In the Endless, self-repeating 
flows for evermore The Same. 
Myriad arches, springing, meeting, 
hold at rest the mighty frame. 
Streams from all things love of living, 
grandest star and humblest clod. 
All the straining, all the striving 
is eternal peace in God." l 

On the surface of history it is the unforeseen that reigns. Every individual 
event, decision and personality is stamped with its hall-mark. No one foreknew 
the storm of Islam at the coming of Mohammed, nor foresaw Napoleon in the 
fall of Robespierre. The coming of great men, their doings, their fortune, are 
all incalculables. No one knows whether a development that is setting in 
powerfully will accomplish its course in a straight line like that of the Roman 
patrician order or will go down in doom like that of the Hohenstaufen or the 
Maya Culture. And — science notwithstanding — it is just the same with the 
destinies of every single species of beast and plant within earth-history and 
beyond even this, with the destiny of the earth itself and all the solar systems 
and Milky Ways. The insignificant Augustus made an epoch, and the great 
Tiberius passed away ineffective. Thus, too, with the fortunes of artists, art- 
works and art-forms, dogmas and cults, theories and discoveries. That, in the 
whirl of becoming, one element merely succumbed to destiny when another 
became (and often enough has continued and will continue to be) a destiny 
itself — that one vanishes with the wave-train of the surface while the other 
makes this, is something that is not to be explained by any why-and-wherefore 
and yet is of inward necessity. And thus jhe phrase that Augustine in a deep 
moment used of Time is valid also of destiny — "if no one questions me, I 
know: if I would explain to a questioner, I know not." 

So, also, the supreme ethical expression of Incident and Destiny is found in 
the Western Christian's idea of Grace — the grace, obtained through the sacri- 
ficial death of Jesus, of being made free to will. 2 The polarity of Disposition 
(original sin) and Grace — a polarity which must ever be a projection of feeling, 
of the emotional life, and not a precision of learned reasoning — embraces the 
existence of every truly significant man of this Culture. It is, even for Protes- 
tants, even for atheists, hidden though it may be behind a scientific notion of 
44 evolution" (which in reality is its direct descendant 3 ), the foundation of 
every confession and every autobiography; and it is just its absence from the 
constitution of Classical man that makes confession, by word or thought, 
impossible to him. It is the final meaning of Rembrandt's self-portraits and of 

1 Spriiche in Reimen. 2 See Vol. II, pp. 2.94 et seq., 359 et scq. 

• The path from Calvin to Darwin is easily seen in English philosophy. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 141 

music from Bach to Beethoven. We may choose to call that something which 
correlates the life-courses of all Western men disposition, Providence or " inner 
evolution" *■ but it remains inaccessible to thought. "Free will" is an inward 
certitude. But whatever one may will or do, that which actually ensues upon 
and issues from the resolution — abrupt, surprising, unforeseeable — subserves 
a deeper necessity and, for the eye that sweeps over the picture of the distant 
past, visibly conforms to a major order. And when the Destiny of that which 
was willed has been Fulfilment we are fain to call the inscrutable "Grace." 
What did Innocent III, Luther, Loyola, Calvin, Jansen, Rousseau and Marx 
will, and what came of the things that they willed in the stream of Western 
history? Was it Grace or Fate? Here all rationalistic dissection ends in non- 
sense. The Predestination doctrine of Calvin and Pascal — who, both of them 
more upright than Luther and Thomas Aquinas, dared to draw the causal con- 
clusion from Augustinian dialectic — is the necessary absurdity to which the 
pursuit of these secrets by the reason leads. They lost the destiny-logic of the 
world-becoming and found themselves in the causal logic of notion and law; 
they left the realm of direct intuitive vision for that of a mechanical system of 
objects. The fearful soul-conflicts of Pascal were the strivings of a man, at once 
intensely spiritual and a born mathematician, who was determined to subject 
the last and gravest problems of the soul both to the intuitions of a grand 
instinctive faith and to the abstract precision of a no less grand mathematical 
plan. In this wise the Destiny-idea — in the language of religion, God's Provi- 
dence — is brought within the schematic form of the Causality Principle, i.e., the 
Kantian form of mind activity (productive imagination); for that is what Predesti- 
nation signifies, notwithstanding that thereby Grace — the causation-free, living 
Grace which can only be experienced as an inward certainty — is made to appear 
as a nature-force that is bound by irrevocable law and to turn the religious world- 
picture into a rigid and gloomy system of machinery. And yet was it not a 
Destiny again — for the world as well as for themselves — that the English 
Puritans, who were filled with this conviction, were ruined not through any 
passive self-surrender but through their hearty and vigorous certainty that 
their will was the will of God? 

VIII 

We can proceed to the further elucidation of the incidental (or casual) 
without running the risk of considering it as an exception or a breach in the 

1 This is one of the eternal points of dispute in Western art-theory. The Classical, ahistorical, 
Euclidean soul has no "evolution"; the Western, on the contrary, extends itself in evolving like the 
convergent function that it is. The one is, the other becomes. And thus all Classical tragedy as- 
sumes the constancy of the personality, and all Western its variability, which essentially constitutes a 
"character" in our sense, viz., a picture of being that consists in continuous qualitative movement 
and an endless wealth of relationships. In Sophocles the grand gesture ennobles the suffering, in Shakespeare 
the grand idea (Gesinnung) ennobles the doing. As our aesthetic took its examples from both Cultures, 
it was bound to go wrong in the very enunciation of its problem. 



142. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

causal continuity of "Nature," for Nature is not the world-picture in which 
Destiny is operative. Wherever the sight emancipates itself from the sensible- 
become, spiritualizes itself into Vision, penetrates through the enveloping 
world and lets prime phenomena instead of mere objects work upon it, we have 
the grand historical, trans-natural, super-natural outlook, the outlook of Dante 
and Wolfram and also the outlook of Goethe in old age that is most clearly 
manifested in the finale of Faust II. If we linger in contemplation in this world 
of Destiny and Incident, it will very likely seem to us incidental that the' 
episode of "world-history" should have played itself out in this or that phase 
of one particular star amongst the millions of solar systems; incidental that it 
should be men, peculiar animal-like creatures inhabiting the crust of this star, 
that present the spectacle of "knowledge" and, moreover, present it in just 
this form or in just that form, according to the very different versions of 
Aristotle, Kant and others; incidental that as the counter-pole of this "know- 
ing" there should have arisen just these codes of "natural law," each sup- 
posedly eternal and universally-valid and each evoking a supposedly general and 
common picture of "Nature." Physics — quite rightly — banishes incidentals 
from its field of view, but it is incidental, again, that physics itself should occur 
in the alluvial period of the earth's crust, uniquely, as a particular kind of 
intellectual composition. 

The world of incident is the world of once-actual facts that longingly or anxiously 
we live forward to (jntgegenleben) as Future, that raise or depress us as the living 
Present, and that we contemplate with joy or with grief as Past, The world of causes 
and effects is the world of the constantly-possible, of the timeless truths which we know 
by dissection and distinction. 

The latter only are scientifically attainable — they are indeed identical with 
science. He who is blind to this other, to the world as Divina Commedia or 
drama for a god, can only find a senseless turmoil of incidents, 1 and here we use 
the word in its most trivial sense. So it has been with Kant and most other 
systematists of thought. But the professional and inartistic sort of historical 
research too, with its collecting and arranging of mere data, amounts for all its 
ingenuity to little more than the giving of a cachet to the banal-incidental. Only 
the insight that can penetrate into the metaphysical is capable of experiencing 
in data symbols of that which happened, and so of elevating an Incident into a 
Destiny. And he who is to himself a Destiny (like Napoleon) does not need 
this insight, since between himself as a fact and the other facts there is a 
harmony of metaphysical rhythm which gives his decisions their dreamlike 
certainty. 2 

. It is this insight that constitutes the singularity and the power of Shake- 

1 "The older one becomes, the more one is persuaded that His Sacred Majesty Chance does 
three-quarters of the work of this miserable Universe." (Frederick the Great to Voltaire.) So, 
necessarily, must the genuine rationalist conceive it. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 2lo et seq. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 143 

speare. Hitherto, neither our research nor our speculation has hit upon this in 
him — that he is the Dramatist of the Incidental. And yet this Incidental is the very- 
heart of Western tragedy, which is a true copy of the Western history idea and 
with it gives the clue to that which we understand in the world — so mis- 
construed by Kant — "Time." It is incidental that the political situation of 
"Hamlet," the murder of the King and the succession question impinge upon 
just that character that Hamlet is. Or, take Othello — it is incidental that the 
man at whom Iago, the commonplace rogue that one could pick up in any 
street, aims his blow is one whose person possesses just this wholly special 
physiognomy. And Lear! Could anything be more incidental (and therefore 
more " natural") than the conjunction of this commanding dignity with these 
fateful passions and the inheritance of them by the daughters? No one has even 
to-day realized all the significance of the fact that Shakespeare took his stories 
as he found them and in the very finding of them filled them with the force of in- 
ward necessity, and never more sublimely so than in the case of the Roman 
dramas. For the will to understand him has squandered itself in desperate 
efforts to bring in a moral causality, a "therefore," a connexion of "guilt" 
and "expiation." But all this is neither correct nor incorrect — these are 
words that belong to the World-as-Nature and imply that something causal is 
being judged — but superficial, shallow, that is, in contrast to the poet's deep 
subjectivizing of the mere fact-anecdote. Only one who feels this is able to 
admire the grand naivet6 of the entrances of Lear and Macbeth. Now, Hebbel 
is the exact opposite, he destroys the depth of the anecdote by a system of cause 
and effect. The arbitrary and abstract character of his plots, which everyone 
feels instinctively, comes from the fact that the causal scheme of his spiritual 
conflicts is in contradiction with the historically-motived world-feeling and the 
quite other logic proper to that feeling. These people do not live, they prove 
something by coming on. One feels the presence of a great understanding, not 
that of a deep life. Instead of the Incident we get a Problem. 

Further, this Western species of the Incidental is entirely alien to the Classical 
world-feeling and therefore to its drama. Antigone has no incidental character 
to affect her fortunes in any way. What happened to CEdipus — unlike the 
fate of Lear — might just as well have happened to anyone else. This is the 
Classical "Destiny," the Fatum which is common to all mankind, which 
affects the "body" and in no wise depends upon incidents of personality. 

The kind of history that is commonly written must, even if it does not lose 
itself in compilation of data, come to a halt before the superficially incidental — 
that is the . . . destiny of its authors, who, spiritually, remain more or less in 
the ruck. In their eyes nature and history mingle in a cheap unity, and incident 
or accident, "sa sacr6e majeste le Hazard," is for the man of the ruck the 
easiest thing in the world to understand. For him the secret logic of history 
'which he does not feel ' is replaced by a causal that is only waiting behind the 



144 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

scene to come on and prove itself. It is entirely appropriate that the au'ecdotal 
foreground of history should be the arena of all the scientific causality-hunters 
and all the novelists and sketch-writers of the common stamp. How many 
wars have been begun when they were because some jealous courtier wished to 
remove some general from the proximity of his wife! How many battles have 
been won and lost through ridiculous incidents! Only think how Roman 
history was written in the 18th Century and how Chinese history is written 
even to-day! Think of the Dey smacking the Consul with his fly-flap 1 
and other such incidents that enliven the historical scene with comic-opera 
motives! Do not the deaths of Gustavus Adolphus and of Alexander seem like 
expedients of a nonplussed playwright; Hannibal a simple intermezzo, a sur- 
prise intrusion in Classical history; or Napoleon's "transit" more or less of a 
melodrama? Anyone who looks for the inner form of history in any causal 
succession of its visible detail-events must always, if he is honest, find a comedy 
of burlesque inconsequence, and I can well imagine that the dance-scene of the 
drunken Triumvirs in "Antony and Cleopatra" (almost overlooked, but one 
of the most powerful in that immensely deep work) 2 grew up out of the con- 
tempt of the prince of historical tragedy for the pragmatic aspect of history. 
For this is the aspect of it that has always dominated "the world," and has 
encouraged ambitious little men to interfere in it. It was because their eyes 
were set on this, and its rationalistic structure, that Rousseau and Marx could 
persuade themselves that they could alter the "course of the world" by a 
theory. And even the social or economic interpretation of political develop- 
ments, to which present-day historical work is trying to rise as to a peak-ideal 
(though its biological cast constantly leads us to suspect foundations of the 
causal kind), is still exceedingly shallow and trivial. 

Napoleon had in his graver moments a strong feeling for the deep logic of 
world-becoming, and in such moments could divine to what extent he was, and 
to what extent he had, a destiny. "I feel myself driven towards an end that I 
do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become un- 
necessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me. Till then, not all the forces of 
mankind can do anything against me," he said at the beginning of the Russian 
campaign. Here, certainly, is not the thought of a pragmatist. In this moment 
he divined how little the logic of Destiny needs particular instances, better 
men or situations . Supposing that he himself, as 4 * empirical person, "had fallen 
at Marengo — then that which he signified would have been actualized in some 
other form. A melody, in the hands of a great musician, is capable of a wealth 
of variations; it can be entirely transformed so far as the simple listener is con- 
cerned without altering itself — which is quite another matter — funda- 
mentally. The epoch of German national union accomplished itself through 

1 The incident which is said to have precipitated the French war on Algiers (182.7). — Tr. 

2 Act. H, Scene VII. — Tr. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 145 

the person of Bismarck, that of the Wars of Freedom through broad and almost 
nameless events; but either theme, to use the language of music, could have 
been 4 * worked out * ' in other ways. Bismarck might have been dismissed early, 
the battle of Leipzig might have been lost, and for the group of wars 1 864-1 866- 
1870 there might have been substituted (as "modulations") diplomatic, dynas- 
tic, revolutionary or economic facts — though it must not be forgotten that 
Western history, under the pressure of its own physiognomic abundance (as distinct from 
physiognomic style, for even Indian history has that) demands, so to say, con- 
trapuntally strong accents — wars or big personalities — at the decisive points. 
Bismarck himself points out in his reminiscences that in the spring of 1848 
national unity could have been achieved on a broader base than in 1870 but for 
the policy (more accurately, the personal taste) of the King of Prussia; l and 
yet, again, according to Bismarck, this would have been so tame a working-out 
that a coda of one sort or another (da capo e poi la coda) would have been im- 
peratively necessary. Withal, the Theme — the meaning of the epoch — would 
have been entirely unaltered by the facts assuming this or that shape. Goethe 
might — possibly — have died young, but not his "idea." Faust and Tasso 
would not have been written, but they would have "been" in a deeply mys- 
terious sense, even though they lacked the poet's elucidation. 

For if it is incidental that the history of higher mankind fulfils itself in the 
form of great Cultures, and that one of these Cultures awoke in West Europe 
about the year 1000; yet from the moment of awakening it is bound by its 
charter. Within every epoch there is unlimited abundance of surprising and 
unforeseeable possibilities of self-actualizing in detail-facts, but the epoch it- 
self is necessary, for the life-unity is in it. That its inner form is precisely what 
it is, constitutes its specific determination (Bestimmung). Fresh incidentals 
can affect the shape of its development, can make this grandiose or puny, pros- 
perous or sorrowful, but alter it they cannot. An irrevocable fact is not merely 
a special case but a special type; thus in the history of the Universe we have the 
type of the "solar system" of sun and circling planets; in the history of our 
planet we have the type "life" with its youth, age, duration and reproduction; 
in the history of "life" the type "humanity," and in the world-historical 
stage of that humanity the type of the great individual Culture. 2 And these 
Cultures are essentially related to the plants, in that they are bound for the whole 
duration of their life to the soil from which they sprang. Typical, lastly, is the 
manner in which the men of a Culture understand and experience Destiny, how- 

1 In the general upheaval of 1848 a German national parliament was assembled at Frankfurt, of 
a strongly democratic colour, and it chose Frederick William IV of Prussia as hereditary emperor. 
Frederick William, however, refused to " pick up a crown out of the gutter." For the history of this 
momentous episode, the English reader may be referred to the Cambridge Modern History or to the 
article Germany (History) in the Ency. Brit., XI Edition. — Tr. 

2 It is the fact that a whole group of these Cultures is available for our study that makes possible 
the "comparative" method used in the present work. See Vol. II, pp. 42. ct seq. 



146 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ever differently the picture may be coloured for this individual and that; what 
I say here about it is not "true," but inwardly necessary for this Culture and 
this time-phase of it, and if it convinces you, it is not because there is only one 
"truth" but because you and I belong to the same epoch. 

For this reason, the Euclidean soul of the Classical Culture could only ex- 
perience its existence, bound as this was to present foregrounds, in the form of 
incidents of the Classical style. If in respect of the Western soul we can regard 
incident as a minor order of Destiny, in respect of the Classical soul it is just 
the reverse. Dostiny is incident become immense — that is the very significa- 
tion of Ananke, Heimarmene, Fatum. As the Classical soul did not genuinely 
live through history, it possessed no genuine feeling for a logic of Destiny. We 
must not be misled by words. The most popular goddess of Hellenism was 
Tyche, whom the Greeks were practically unable to distinguish from Ananke. 
But Incident and Destiny are felt by us with all the intensity of an opposition, 
and on the issue of this opposition we feel that everything fundamental in our 
existence depends. Our history is that of great connexions, Classical history — 
its full actuality, that is, and not merely the image of it that we get in the 
historian (e.g., Herodotus) — is that of anecdotes, of a series of plastic details. 
The style of the Classical life generally, the style of every individual life within 
it, is anecdotal, using the word with all seriousness. The sense-perceivable side 
of events condenses on anti-historical, daemonic, absurd incidents; it is the denial 
and disavowal of all logic of happening. The stories of the Classical master- 
tragedies one and all exhaust themselves in incidents that mock at any meaning 
of the world; they are the exact denotation of what is connoted by the word 
elfxapfjikvT] * in contrast to the Shakesperian logic of incident. Consider CEdipus 
once more: that which happened to him was wholly extrinsic, was neither 
brought about nor conditioned by anything subjective to himself, and could 
just as well have happened to anyone else. This is the very form of the Classical 
myth. Compare with it the necessity — inherent in and governed by the man's 
whole existence and the relation of that existence to Time — that resides in 
the destiny of Othello, of Don Quixote, of Werther. It is, as we have said 
before, the difference of situation-tragedy and character-tragedy. And this 
opposition repeats itself in history proper — every epoch of the West has 
character, while each epoch of the Classical only presents a situation. While 
the life of Goethe was one of fate-filled logic, that of Csesar was one of mythical 
indidentalness, and it was left to Shakespeare to introduce logic into it. Napo- 
leon is a tragic character, Alcibiades fell into tragic situations. Astrology, in 
the form in which from Gothic to Baroque the Western soul knew it — was 
dominated by it even in denying it — was the attempt to master one's whole 
future life-course; the Faustian horoscope, of which the best-known example 

1 Derived from fxeipofxat, to receive as one's portion, to have allotted to one, or, colloquially, 
to "come in for" or "step into." — Tr. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 147 

is perhaps that drawn out for Wallenstein by Kepler, presupposes a steady and 
purposeful direction in the existence that has yet to be accomplished. But the 
Classical oracle, always consulted for the individual case, is the genuine symbol 
of the meaningless incident and the moment; it accepts the point-formed and 
the discontinuous as the elements of the world's course, and oracle-utterances 
were therefore entirely in place in that which was written and experienced as 
history at Athens. Was there one single Greek who possessed the notion of a 
historical evolution towards this or that or any aim? And we — should we have 
been able to reflect upon history or to make it if we had not possessed it? If we 
compare the destinies of Athens and of France at corresponding times after 
Themistocles and Louis XIV, we cannot but feel that the style of the historical 
feeling and the style of its actualization are always one. In France logic a 
outrance, in Athens un-logic. 

The ultimate meaning of this significant fact can now be understood. His- 
tory is the actualizing of a soul, and the same style governs the history one 
makes as governs the history one contemplates. The Classical mathematic 
excludes the symbol of infinite space, and therefore the Classical history does 
so too. It is not for nothing that the scene of Classical existence is the smallest 
of any, the individual Polis, that it lacks horizon and perspective — notwith- 
standing the episode of Alexander's expedition * — just as the Attic stage cuts 
them off with its flat back-wall, in obvious contrast to the long-range efficacy 
of Western Cabinet diplomacy and the Western capital city. And just as the 
Greeks and the Romans neither knew nor (with their fundamental abhorrence 
of the Chaldean astronomy) would admit as actual any cosmos but that of the 
foreground; just as at bottom their deities are house-gods, city-gods, field-gods 
but never star-gods, 2 so also what they depicted was only foregrounds. Never in 
Corinth or Athens or Sicyon do we find a landscape with mountain horizon and 
driving clouds and distant towns; every vase-painting has the same constitu- 
ents, figures of Euclidean separateness and artistic self-sufficiency. Every pedi- 
ment or frieze group is serially and not contrapuntally built up. But then, 
life-experience itself was one strictly of foregrounds. Destiny was not the 
"course of life" but something upon which one suddenly stumbles. And this 
is how Athens produced, with Polygnotus's fresco and Plato's geometry, a 
fate-tragedy in which fate is precisely the fate that we discredit in Schiller's 
"Bride of Messina." The complete unmeaning of blind doom that is embod- 
ied, for instance, in the curse of the House of Atreus, served to reveal to the 
ahistorical Classical soul the full meaning of its own world. 

1 The expedition of the Ten Thousand into Persia is no exception. The Ten Thousand indeed 
formed an ambulatory Polis,* and its adventures are truly Classical. It was confronted with a series 
of "situations." — Tr. 

2 Helios is only a poetical figure; he had neither temples nor cult. Even less was Selene a moon- 
goddess. 



148 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

IX 

We may now point our moral with a few examples, which, though hazard- 
ous, ought not at this stage to be open to misunderstanding. Imagine Columbus 
supported by France instead of by Spain, as was in fact highly probable at one 
time. Had Francis I been the master of America, without doubt he and not 
the Spaniard Charles V would have obtained the imperial crown. The early 
Baroque period from the Sack of Rome to the Peace of Westphalia, which was 
actually the Spanish century in religion, intellect, art, politics and manners, 
would have been shaped from Paris and not from Madrid. Instead of the names 
of Philip, Alva, Cervantes, Calderon, Velasquez we should be talking to-day of 
great Frenchmen who in fact — if we may thus roundly express a very difficult 
idea — remained unborn. The style of the Church which was definitively 
fixed in this epoch by the Spaniard Loyola and the Council of Trent which he 
spiritually dominated; the style of politics to which the war-technique of 
Spanish captains, the diplomacy of Spanish cardinals and the courtly spirit of 
the Escorial gave a stamp that lasted till the Congress of Vienna and in essential 
points till beyond Bismarck; the architecture of the Baroque; the great age of 
Painting; ceremonial and the polite society of the great cities — all these would 
have been represented by other profound heads, noble and clerical, by wars 
other than Philip II's wars, by another architect than Vignola, by another 
Court. The Incidental chose the Spanish gesture for the late period of the 
West. But the inward logic of that age, which was bound to find its fulfilment 
in the great Revolution (or some event of the same connotation), remained 
intact. 

This French revolution might have been represented by some other event of 
different form and occurring elsewhere, say in England or Germany. But its 
"idea," — which (as we shall see later) was the transition from Culture to 
Civilization, the victory of the inorganic megalopolis over the organic country- 
side which was henceforward to become spiritually "the provinces," — was 
necessary, and the moment of its occurrence was also necessary. To describe 
such a moment we shall use the term (long blurred, or misused as a synonym 
for period) epoch. When we say an event is epoch-making we mean that it 
marks in the course of a Culture a necessary and fateful turning-point. The 
merely incidental event, a crystallization-form of the historical surface, may 
be represented by other appropriate incidents, but the epoch is necessary and 
predeterminate. And it is evident that the question of whether, in respect of 
a particular Culture and its course, an event ranks as an epoch or as an episode 
is connected with its ideas of Destiny and Incidents, and therefore also with its 
idea of the Tragic as "epochal" (as in the West) or as "episodic" (as in the 
Classical world). 

We can, further, distinguish between impersonal or anonymous and personal 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 149 

epochs, according to their physiognomic type in the picture of history. 
Amongst " incidents" of the first rank we include those great persons who are 
endowed with such formative force that the destiny of thousands, of whole 
peoples, and of ages, are incorporated in their private destinies; but at the same 
time we can distinguish the adventurer or successful man who is destitute of 
inward greatness (like Danton or Robespierre) from the Hero of history by 
the fact that his personal destiny displays only the traits of the common 
destiny. Certain names may ring, but " the Jacobins" collectively and not 
individuals amongst them were the type that dominated the time. The first 
part of this epoch of the Revolution is therefore thoroughly anonymous, just 
as the second or Napoleonic is in the highest degree personal. In a few years 
the immense force of these phenomena accomplished what the corresponding 
epoch of the Classical (c.386-3xx), fluid and unsure of itself, required decades of 
undermining-work to achieve. It is of the essence of all Culture that at the out- 
set of each stage the same potentiality is present, and that necessity fulfils itself 
thereafter either in the form of a great individual person (Alexander, Diocletian, 
Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon) or in that of an almost anonymous happening 
of powerful inward constitution (Peloponnesian War, Thirty Years' War, 
Spanish Succession War) or else in a feeble and indistinct evolution (periods of 
the Diadochi and of the Hyksos, the Interregnum in Germany). And the 
question which of these forms is the more likely to occur in any given instance, 
is one that is influenced in advance by the historical and therefore also the 
tragic style of the Culture concerned. 1 

The tragic in Napoleon's life — which still awaits discovery by a poet great 
enough to comprehend it and shape it — was that he, who rose into effective 
being by fighting British policy and the British spirit which that policy so 
eminently represented, completed by that very fighting the continental victory 
of this spirit, which thereupon became strong enough, in the guise of " liber- 
ated nations," to overpower him and to send him to St. Helena to die. It was 
not Napoleon who originated the expansion principle. That had arisen out of 
the Puritanism of Cromwell's milieu which called into life the British Colonial 
Empire. 2 Transmitted through the English-schooled intellects of Rousseau 
and Mirabeau to the Revolutionary armies, of which English philosophical 
ideas were essentially the driving force, it became their tendency even from that 
day of Valmy which Goethe alone read aright. It was not Napoleon whd 
formed the idea, but the idea that formed Napoleon, and when he came to the 
throne he was obliged to pursue it further against the only power, England 
namely, whose purpose was the same as his own. His Empire was a creation of 

1 The original is somewhat obscure. It reads: "Welche Form die Wahrscheinlichkeit fur sich 
hat, ist bereits eine Frage des historischen — und also des tragischen — Stils." — Tr. 

2 The words of Canning at the beginning of the XlXth century may be recalled. "South 
America free! and if possible English!" The expansion idea has never been expressed in greater 
purity than this. 



*% 



150 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

French blood but of English style. It was in London, again, that Locke, 
Shaftesbury, Samuel Clarke and, above all, Bentham built up the theory of 
''European Civilization" — the Western Hellenism — which Bayle, Voltaire 
and Rousseau carried to Paris. Thus it was in the name of this England of 
Parliamentarianism, business morality and journalism that Valmy, Marengo, 
Jena, Smolensk and Leipzig were fought, and in all these battles it was the 
English spirit that defeated the French Culture of the West. 1 The First Consul 
had no intention of incorporating West Europe in France; his primary object 
was — note the Alexander-idea on the threshold of every Civilization! — to 
replace the British Colonial Empire by a French one. Thereby, French pre- 
ponderance in the Western culture-region would have been placed on a practi- 
cally unassailable foundation; it would have been the Empire of Charles V on 
which the sun never set, but managed from Paris after all, in spite of Columbus 
and Philip, and organized as an economic-military instead of as an ecclesiastical- 
chivalric unit. So far-reaching, probably, was the destiny that was in Napo- 
leon. But the Peace of Paris in 1763 had already decided the question against 
France, and Napoleon's great plans time and again came to grief in petty inci- 
dents. At Acre a few guns were landed in the nick of time from the British 
warships: there was a moment, again, just before the signature of the Peace of 
Amiens, when the whole Mississippi basin was still amongst his assets and he 
was in close touch with the Maratha powers that were resisting British prog- 
ress in India; but again a minor naval incident 2 obliged him to abandon the 
whole of a carefully-prepared enterprise: and, lastly, when by the occupa- 
tion of Dalmatia, Corfu and all Italy he had made the Adriatic a French lake, 
with a view to another expedition to the East, and was negotiating with the 
Shah of Persia for action against India, he was defeated by the whims of the 
Tsar Alexander, who at times was undoubtedly willing to support a march on 
India and whose aid would infallibly have secured its success. It was only after 
the failure of all extra-European combinations that he chose, as his ultima ratio 
in the battle against England, the incorporation of Germany and Spain, and so, 
raising against himself his own English-Revolutionary ideas, the very ideas of 
which he had been the vehicle, 3 he took the step that made him "no longer 
necessary." 

1 The Western Culture of maturity was through-and-through a French outgrowth of the Spanish, 
beginning with Louis XIV. But even by Louis XVTs time the English park had defeated the French, 
sensibility had ousted wit, London costume and manners had overcome Versailles, and Hogarth, 
Chippendale and Wedgwood had prevailed over Watteau, Boulle and Sevres. 

2 The allusion is to the voyage of Linois's small squadron to Pondich6ry in 1803, * tt confronta- 
tion by another small British squadron there, and the counter-order which led Linois to retire to 
Mauritius. — Tr. 

8 Hardenberg's reorganization of Prussia was throughly English in spirit, and as such, incurred 
the severe censure of the old Prussian Von der Marwitz. Scharnhorst's army reforms too, as a break- 
away from the professional army system of the eighteenth-century cabinet-wars, are a sort of 
"return to nature" in the Rousseau-Revolutionary sense. 



r 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 151 

At one time it falls to the Spanish spirit to outline, at another to the 
British or the French to remould, the world-embracing colonial system. A 
4i United States of Europe,' * actualized through Napoleon as founder of a 
romantic and popular military monarchy, is the analogue of the Realm of the 
Diadochi; actualized as a iist-Century economic organism by a matter-of-fact 
Csesar, it is the counterpart of the imprium Romanum. These are incidentals, 
but they are in the picture of history. But Napoleon's victories and defeats 
(which always hide a victory of England and Civilization over Culture), his 
Imperial dignity, his fall, the Grande Nation, the episodic liberation of Italy 
(in 1796, as in 1859, essentially no more than a change of political costume for 
a people long since become insignificant), the destruction of the Gothic ruin 
of the Roman-German Empire, are mere surface phenomena, behind which is 
marching the great logic of genuine and invisible .History, and it was in the 
sense of this logic that the West, having fulfilled its French-formed Culture in 
the ancien rigitne y closed it off with the English Civilization. As symbols of 
" contemporary* * epochal moments, then, the storming of the Bastille, Valmy, 
Austerlitz, Waterloo and the rise of Prussia correspond to the Classical-history 
facts of Chseronea, Gaugamela (Arbela), Alexander's Indian expedition and the 
Roman victory of Sentinum. 1 And we begin to understand that in wars and 
political catastrophies — the chief material of our historical writings — victory 
is not the essence of the fight nor peace the aim of a revolution. 



Anyone who has absorbed these ideas will have no difficulty in understand- 
ing how the causality principle is bound to have a fatal effect upon the capacity 
for genuinely experiencing History when, at last, it attains its rigid form in 
that "late" condition of a Culture to which it is proper and in which it is able 
to tyrannize over the world-picture. Kant, very wisely, established causality as 
a necessary form of knowledge, and it cannot be too often emphasized that this 
was meant to refer exclusively to the understanding of man's environment by 
the way of reason. But while the word "necessary" was accepted readily 
enough, it has been overlooked that this limitation of the principle to a single 
domain of knowledge is just what forbids its application to the contemplation 
and experiencing of living history. Man-knowing and Nature-knowing are in 
essence entirely incapable of being compared, but nevertheless the whole Nine- 
teenth Century was at great pains to abolish the frontier between Nature and 
History in favour of the former. The more historically men tried to think, the 
more they forgot that in this domain they ought not to think. In forcing the 
rigid scheme of a spatial and anti-temporal relation of cause and effect upon 
something alive, they disfigured the visible face of becoming with the 

1 Where in 195 b.c. the Romans decisively defeated the last great Samnite effort to resist their 
hegemony over Italy. — Tr. 



i 5 i THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

construction-lines of a physical nature-picture, and, habituated to their own 
late, megalopolitan and causally-thinking milieu, they were unconscious of the 
fundamental absurdity of a science that sought to understand an organic be- 
coming by methodically misunderstanding it as the machinery of the thing- 
become. Day is not the cause of night, nor youth of age, nor blossom of fruit. 
Everything that we grasp intellectually has a cause, everything that we live 
organically with inward certitude has a fast. The one recognizes the case, that 
which is generally possible and has a fixed inner form which is the same when- 
ever and wherever and however often it occurs, the other recognizes the event 
which once was and will never recur. And, according as we grasp something 
in our envelope-world critically and consciously or physiognomically and in- 
voluntarily, we draw our conclusion from technical or from living experience, 
and we relate it to a timeless cause in space or to a direction which leads from 
yesterday to to-day and to-morrow. 

But the spirit of our great cities refuses to be involuntary. Surrounded by a 
machine-technique that it has itself created in surprising Nature's most dangerous 
secret, the "law," it seeks to conquer history also technically, "theoretically 
and practically.* ' "Usefulness," suitableness to purpose (Zweckmassigkeit), is 
the great word which assimilates the one to the other. A materialist conception 
of history, ruled by laws of causal Nature, leads to the setting up of usefulness- 
ideals such as " enlightenment,* ' "humanity," "world-peace," as aims of 
world-history, to be reached by the ' ' march of progress. ' ' But in these schemes 
of old age the feeling of Destiny has died, and with it the young reckless courage 
that, self-forgetful and big with a future, presses on to meet a dark decision. 

For only youth has a future, and is Future, that enigmatic synonym of 
directional Time and of Destiny. Destiny is always young. He who replaces it 
by a mere chain of causes and effects, sees even in the not-yet-actualized some- 
thing, as it were, old and past — direction is wanting. But he who lives towards 
a something in the superabundant flow of things need not concern himself with 
aims and abilities, for he feels that he himself is the meaning of what is to 
happen. This was the faith in the Star that never left Cassar nor Napoleon nor 
the great doers of another kind; and this it is that lies deepest of all — youthful 
melancholy notwithstanding — in every childhood and in every young clan, 
people, Culture, that extends forward over all their history for men of act and 
of vision, who are young however white their hair, younger even than the 
most juvenile of those who look to a timeless utilitarianism. The feeling of 
a significance in the momentarily present world-around discloses itself in the 
earliest days of childhood, when it is still only the persons and things of the 
nearest environment that essentially exist, and develops through silent and un- 
conscious experience into a comprehensive picture. This picture constitutes the 
general expression of the whole Culture as it is at the particular stage, and it is 
only the fine judge of life and the deep searcher of history who can interpret it. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 153 

At this point a distinction presents itself between the immediate impression 
of the present and the image of the past that is only presented in the spirit, in 
other words between the world as happening and the world as history. The 
eye of the man of action (statesman and general) appreciates the first, that of 
the man of contemplation (historian and poet) the second. Into the first one 
plunges practically to do or to suffer; chronology, 1 that great symbol of irre- 
vocable past, claims the second. We look backwards, and we live forward 
towards the unforeseen, but even in childhood our technical experience soon 
introduces into the image of the singular occurrence elements of the foreseeable, 
that is, an image of regulated Nature which is subject not to physiognomic fact 
but to calculation. We apprehend a "head of game" as a living entity and 
immediately afterwards as food; we see a flash of lightning as a peril and then 
as an electrical discharge. And this second, later, petrifying projection of the 
world more and more tends to overpower the first in the Megalopolis; the 
image of the past is mechanized and materialized and from it is deduced a set 
of causal rules for present and future. We come to believe in historical laws 
and in a rational understanding of them. 

Nevertheless science is always natural science. Causal knowledge and 
technical experience refer only to the become, the extended, the comprehended. 
As life is to history, so is knowledge (Wissen) to Nature, viz., to the sensible 
world apprehended as an element, treated as in space and subjected to the law 
of cause and effect. Is there, then, a science of History at all? To answer this 
question, let us remember that in every personal world-picture, which only 
approximates more or less to the ideal picture, there is both something of 
Nature and something of History. No Nature is without living, and no His- 
tory without causal, harmonies. For within the sphere of Nature, although 
two like experiments, conformably to law, have the like result, yet each of 
these experiments is a historical event possessing a date and not recurring. 
And within that of History, the dates or data of the past (chronologies, sta- 
tistics, names, forms 2 ) form a rigid web. "Facts are facts" even if we are 
unaware of them, and all else is image, Theoria, both in the one domain and 
in the other. But history is itself the condition of being "in the focus" and 
the material is only an aid to this condition, whereas in Nature the real aim 
is the winning of the material, and theory is only the servant of this purpose. 

There is, therefore, not a science of history but an ancillary science for his- 

1 Which, inasmuch as it has been detached from time, is able to employ mathematical symbols. 
These rigid figures signify for us a destiny of yore. But their meaning is other than mathematical. 
Past is not a cause, nor Fate a formula, and to anyone who handles them, as the historical materialist 
handles them, mathematically, the past event as such, as an actuality that has lived once and only 
once, is invisible. 

2 That is, not merely conclusions of peaces or deathdays of persons, but the Renaissance style, 
the Polis, the Mexican Culture and so forth — are dates or data, facts that have been, even when we 
possess no representation of them. 






154 



THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 



tory, which ascertains that which has been. For the historical outlook itself 
the data are always symbols. Scientific research, on the contrary, is science 
and only science. In virtue of its technical origin and purpose it sets out to 
find data and laws of the causal sort and nothing else, and from the moment 
that it turns its glance upon something else it becomes Metaphysics, something 
trans-scientific. And just because this is so, historical and natural-science data 
are different. The latter consistently repeat themselves, the former never. 
The latter are truths, the former facts. However closely related incidentals and 
causals may appear to be in the everyday picture, fundamentally they belong 
to different worlds. As it is beyond question that the shallowness of a man's 
history-picture (the man himself, therefore) is in proportion to the dominance 
in it of frank incidentals, so it is beyond question that the emptiness of written 
history is in proportion to the degree in which it makes the establishment of 
purely factual relations its object. The more deeply a man lives History, the 
more rarely will he receive " causal* * impressions and the more surely will he 
be sensible of their utter insignificance. If the reader examines Goethe's writ- 
ings in natural science, he will be astounded to find how "living nature" can 
be set forth without formulas, without laws, almost without a trace of the 
causal. For him, Time is not a distance but 'a feeling. But the experience of 
last and deepest things is practically denied to the ordinary savant who dissects 
and arranges purely critically and allows himself neither to contemplate nor to 
feel. In the case of History, on the contrary, this power of experience is the 
requisite. And thus is justified the paradox that the less a historical researcher 
has to do with real science, the better it is for his history. 
To elucidate once more by a diagram: 



Soul- 



Life, Direction 

Destiny-Experience 

The uniquely 

occurring and irrevocable 

"Fact" 

Physiognomic tart (instinct) 



World 



Extension 
Causal Knowledge 
The constantly- 
possible 
"Truth" 
Systematic criticism (reason) 



Consciousness 

as servant of Being 

The world-image of ** History" 

Life-experience 

Image of the Past 

Constructive Contemplation 

(Historian, Tragic Dramatist) 

to investigate Destiny 

Direction into the Future 

Constructive Action 

(Statesman) 

, to & Destiny 



Consciousness 

as master of Being 

The world-image of "Nature" 

Scientific methods 

Religion. Natural Science 

Theoretical: Myth and Dogma. Hypothesis 

Practical: Cult. Technique 



^ ^ 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 155 



XI 



Is it permissible to fix upon one, any one, group of social, religious, physio- 
logical or ethical facts as the "cause" of another? "Certainly," the rational- 
istic school of history, and still more the up-to-date sociology, would reply. 
That, they would say, is what is meant by our comprehending history and 
deepening our knowledge of it. But in reality, with "civilized" man there is 
always the implicit postulate of an underlying rational purpose — without 
which indeed his world would be meaningless. And there is something rather 
comic in the most unscientific freedom that he allows himself in his choice of his 
fundamental causes. One man selects this, another that, group as prima causa — 
an inexhaustible source of polemics — and all fill their works with pretended 
elucidations of the "course of history" on natural-science lines. Schiller has 
given us the classical expression of this method in one of his immortal banali- 
ties, the verse in which the "Weltgetriebe" is stated to be kept up "durch 
Hunger und durch Liebe"; and the Nineteenth Century, progressing from 
Rationalism to Materialism, has made this opinion canonical. The cult of the 
useful was set up on high. To it Darwin, in the name of his century, sacrificed 
Goethe's Nature-theory. The organic logic of the facts of life was supplanted 
by a mechanics in physiological garb. Heredity, adaptation, natural selection, 
are utility-causes of purely mechanical connotation. The historical dispensa- 
tions were superseded by a naturalistic movement "in space." (But are there 
historical or spiritual "processes," or life-" processes " of any sort whatever? 
Have historical "movements" such as, for example, the Renaissance or the 
Age of Enlightenment anything whatever to do with the scientific notion of 
movement?) The word "process" eliminated Destiny and unveiled the secret 
of becoming, and lo! there was no longer a tragic but only an exact mathe- 
matical structure of world-happening. And thereupon the "exact" historian 
enunciated the proposition that in the history-picture we had before us a se- 
quence of "states" of mechanical type which were amenable to rational analy- 
sis like a physical experiment or a chemical reaction, and that therefore causes, 
means, methods and objects were capable of being grouped together as a com- 
prehensible system on the visible surface. It all becomes astonishingly simple. 
And one is bound to admit that given a sufficiently shallow observer, the 
hypothesis (so far as concerns his personality and its world-picture) comes off. 

Hunger and Love x thus become mechanical causes of mechanical processes 
in the "life of peoples." Social problems and sexual problems (both belonging 
to a "physics" or "chemistry" of public — all-too-public — existence) be- 
come the obvious themes of utilitarian history and therefore of the corresponding 
tragedy. For the social drama necessarily accompanies the materialist treatment 
of history, and that which in Goethe's " Wahlverwandtschaften" was destiny 

1 Sec Vol. II, pp. 403 ct scq., 589 ct seq. 



i 5 6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

in the highest sense has become in Ibsen's "Lady from the Sea" nothing but a 
sexual problem. Ibsen and all the reason-poets of our great cities build — build 
from their very first causes to their very last effect — but they do not sing. As 
artist, Hebbel fought hard to overcome this merely prosaic element in his more 
critical than intuitive temperament, to be a poet quand mime, hence his des- 
perate and wholly un-Goethean effort to motive his events. In Hebbel, as 
in Ibsen, motiving means trying to shape tragedy causally \ and he dissected and 
re-dissected and transformed and retransformed his Anecdote until he had made 
it into a system that proved a case. Consider his treatment of the Judith story 
— Shakespeare would have taken it as it was, and scented a world-secret in the 
physiognomic charm of the pure adventure. But Goethe's warning: "Do not, 
I beg you, look for anything behind phenomena. They are themselves their own 
lesson (sie selbst sind die Lehre)" had become incomprehensible to the century 
of Marx and Darwin. The idea of trying to read a destiny in the physiognomy 
of the past and that of trying to represent unadulterated Destiny as a tragedy 
were equally remote from them. In both domains, the cult of the useful had 
set before itself an entirely different aim. Shapes were called into being, not to 
be, but to prove something. "Questions" of the day were "treated," social 
problems suitably "solved," and the stage, like the history-book, became a 
means to that end. Darwinism, however unconscious of what it was doing, 
has made biology politically effective. Somehow or other, democratic stirrings 
happened in the protoplasm, and the struggle for existence of the rain-worms 
is a useful lesson for the bipeds who have scraped through. 

With all this, the historians have failed to learn the lesson that our ripest 
and strictest science, Physics, would have taught them, the lesson of prudence. 
Even if we concede them their causal method, the superficiality with which 
they apply it is an outrage. There is neither the intellectual discipline nor the 
keen sight, let alone the scepticism that is inherent in our handling of physical 
hypotheses. 1 For the attitude of the physicist to his atoms, electrons, currents, 
and fields of force, to aether and mass, is very far removed from the naive faith 
of the layman and the Monist in these things. They are images which he sub- 
jects to the abstract relationships of his differential equations, in which he 
clothes trans-phenomenal numbers, and if he allows himself a certain freedom 
to choose amongst several theories, it is because he does not try to find in them 
any actuality but that of the "conventional sign." 2 He knows, too, that over 

1 The formation of hypotheses in Chemistry is much more thoughtless, owing to the less close 
relation of that science to mathematics. A house of cards such as is presented to us in the researches 
of the moment on atom-structure (see, for example, M. Born, Der Aufbau der Materie, 192.0) would be 
impossible in the near neighbourhood of the electro-magnetic theory of light, whose authors never 
for a moment lost sight of the frontier between mathematical vision and its representation by a 
picture, or of the fact that this was only a picture. 

2 There is no difference essentially between these representations and the switchboard wiring- 
diagram, 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 157 

and above an experimental acquaintance with the technical structure of the 
world-around, all that it is possible to achieve by this process (which is the 
only one open to natural science) is a symbolic interpretation of it, no more — 
certainly not "Knowledge" in the sanguine popular sense. For, the image of 
Nature being a creation and copy of the Intellect, its "alter ego " in the domain 
of the extended, to know Nature means to know oneself. 

If Physics is the maturest of our sciences, Biology, whose business is to 
explore the picture of organic life, is in point both of content and of methods the 
weakest. What historical investigation really is, namely pure Physiognomic, 
cannot be better illustrated than by the course of Goethe's nature-studies. 
He works upon mineralogy, and at once his views fit themselves together into 
a conspectus of an earth-history in which his beloved granite signifies nearly 
the same as that which I call the proto-human signifies in man's history. 
He investigates well-known plants, and the prime phenomenon of metamor- 
phosis, the original form of the history of all plant existence, reveals itself; 
proceeding further, he reaches those extraordinarily deep ideas of vertical and 
spiral tendencies in vegetation which have not been fully grasped even yet. 
His studies of ossature, based entirely on the contemplation of life, lead him to 
the discovery of the " os intermaxillare " in man and to the view that the 
skull-structure of the vertebrates developed out of six vertebras. Never is 
there a word of causality. He feels the necessity of Destiny just as he himself 
expressed it in his Orpbische Urworte: 

"So must thou be. Thou canst not Self escape. 
So erst the Sibyls, so the Prophets told. 
Nor Time nor any Power can mar the shape 
Impressed, that living must itself unfold." 

The mere chemistry of the stars, the mathematical side of physical observa- 
tions, and physiology proper interested him, the great historian of Nature 
very little, because they belonged to Systematic and were concerned with ex- 
periential learning of the become, the dead, and the rigid. This is what under- 
lies his anti-Newton polemic — a case in which, it must be added, both sides 
were in the right, for the one had " knowledge ' ' of the regulated nature-process 
in the dead colour 1 while the experiencing of the other, the artist, was intuitive- 
sensuous "feeling." Here we have the two worlds in plain opposition; and 
now therefore the essentials of their opposition must be stated with all strict- 
ness. 

1 Goethe's theory of colour openly controverted Newton's theory of light. A long account of 
the controversy will be found in Chapter IX of G. H. Lewes's Life of Goethe — a work that, taken 
all in all, is one of the wisest biographies ever written. In reading his critique of Goethe's theory, 
of course, it has to be borne in mind that he wrote before the modern development of the electro- 
magnetic theory, which has substituted a merely mathematical existence for the Newtonian physical 
existence of colour-rays as such in white light. Now, this physical existence was just what, in 
substance, Goethe denied. What he affirmed, in the simpler language of his day, was that white 



158 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

History carries the mark of the singular-factual, Nature that of the con- 
tinuously -possible. So long as I scrutinize the image of the world-around in order 
to see by what laws it must actualize itself, irrespective of whether it does 
happen or merely might happen — irrespective, that is, of time — then I am 
working in a genuine science. For the necessity of a nature-law (and there are 
no other laws) it is utterly immaterial whether it becomes phenomenal in- 
finitely often or never. That is, it is independent of Destiny. There are thousands 
of chemical combinations that never are and never will be produced, but they 
are demonstrably possible and therefore they exist — for the fixed System of 
Nature though not for the Physiognomy of the whirling universe. A system 
consists of truths, a history rests on facts. Facts follow one another, truths 
follow from one another, and this is the difference between "when" and 
' 4 how. ' * That there has been a flash of lightning is a fact and can be indicated, 
without a word, by the pointing of a finger. "When there is lightning there is 
thunder," on the contrary, is something that must be communicated by a 
proposition or sentence. Experience-lived may be quite wordless, while sys- 
tematic knowing can only be through words. "Only that which has no 
history is capable of being defined," says Nietzsche somewhere. But History 
is present becoming that tends into the future and looks back on the past. 
Nature stands beyond all time, its mark is extension, and it is without direc- 
tional quality. Hence, for the one, the necessity of the mathematical, and 
for the other the necessity of the tragic. 

In the actuality of waking existence both worlds, that of scrutiny and that of 
acceptance (Hingebung), are interwoven, just as in a Brabant tapestry warp and 
woof together effect the picture. Every law must, to be available to the under- 
standing at all, once have been discovered through some destiny-disposition 
in the history of an intellect — that is, it must have once been in experiential 
life; and every destiny appears in some sensible garb — as persons, acts, scenes 

light was something simple and colourless that becomes coloured through diminutions or modifi- 
cations imposed upon it by "darkness." The modern physicist, using a subtler hypothesis than 
Newton's and a more refined "balance" than that which Lewes reproaches Goethe for "flinging 
away," has found in white light, not the Newtonian mixture of colour-rays, but a surge of irregular 
wave-trains which are only regularized into colour-vibrations through being acted upon by analysers 
of one sort and another, from prisms to particulate matter. This necessity of a counter-agent for the 
production of colour seems — to a critical outsider at any rate — very like the necessity of an efficient 
negative principle or "opaque" that Goethe's intuitive interpretation of his experiments led him 
to postulate. It is this that is the heart of the theory, and not the "simplicity" of light per se. 

So much it seems desirable to add to the text and the reference, in order to expand the author's 
statement that "both were right." For Lewes, with all his sympathetic penetration of the man 
and real appreciation of his scientific achievement, feels obliged to regard his methods and his theory 
as such as "erroneous." And it is perhaps not out of place in this book to adduce an instance of the 
peculiar nature and power of intuitive vision (which entirely escapes direct description) in which 
Vision frankly challenges Reason on its own ground, meets with refutation (or contempt) from the 
Reason of its day, and yet may come to be upheld in its specific rightness (its rightness as vision, that 
is, apart from its technical enunciation by the seer) by the Reason of a later day. — TV. 



DESTINY AND CAUSALITY 159 

and gestures — in which Nature-laws are operative. Primitive life is submissive 
before the daemonic unity of the fateful; in the consciousness of the mature Cul- 
ture this "early" world-image is incessantly in conflict with the other, "late," 
world-image; and in the civilized man the tragic world-feeling succumbs to the 
mechanizing intellect. History and nature within ourselves stand opposed to one 
another as life is to death, as ever-becoming time to ever-become space. In the waking 
consciousness, becoming and become struggle for control of the world-picture, 
and the highest and maturest forms of both sorts (possible only for the great 
Cultures) are seen, in the case of the Classical soul, in the opposition of Plato 
and Aristotle, and, in the case of our Western, in that of Goethe and Kant — 
the pure physiognomy of the world contemplated by the soul of an eternal 
child, and its pure system comprehended by the reason of an eternal greybeard. 



XII 



Herein, then, I see the last great task of Western philosophy, the only one 
which still remains in store for the aged wisdom of the Faustian Culture, the 
preordained issue, it seems, of our centuries of spiritual evolution. No Culture 
is at liberty to choose the path and conduct of its thought, but here for the first 
time a Culture can foresee the way that destiny has chosen for it. 

Before my eyes there seems to emerge, as a vision, a hitherto unimagined 
mode of superlative historical research that is truly Western, necessarily alien 
to the Classical and to every other soul but ours — a comprehensive Physi- 
ognomic of all existence, a morphology of becoming for all humanity that 
drives onward to the highest and last ideas; a duty of penetrating the world- 
feeling not only of our proper soul but of all souls whatsoever that have con- 
tained grand possibilities and have expressed them in the field of actuality as 
grand Cultures. This philosophic view — to which we and we alone are 
entitled in virtue of our analytical mathematic, our contrapuntal music and our 
perspective painting — in that its scope far transcends the scheme of the sys- 
tematise presupposes the eye of an artist, and of an artist who can feel the whole 
sensible and apprehensible environment dissolve into a deep infinity of mys- 
terious relationships. So Dante felt, and so Goethe felt. To bring up, out of 
the web of world-happening, a millennium of organic culture-history as an 
entity and person, and to grasp the conditions of its inmost spirituality — such 
is the aim. Just as one penetrates the lineaments of a Rembrandt portrait or a 
Cassar-bust, so the new art will contemplate and understand the grand, fateful 
lines in the visage of a Culture as a superlative human individuality. 

To attempt the interpretation of a poet or a prophet, a thinker or a con- 
queror, is of course nothing new, but to enter a culture-soul — Classical, Egyp- 
tian or Arabian — so intimately as to absorb into one's self, to make part of 
one's own life, the totality expressed by typical men and situations, by religion 
and polity, by style and tendency, by thought and customs, is quite a new man- 



160 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ner of experiencing life. Every epoch, every great figure, every deity, the cities, 
the tongues, the nations, the arts, in a word everything that ever existed and 
will become existent, are physiognomic traits of high symbolic significance 
that it will be the business of quite a new kind of " judge of men" (Menschen- 
kenner) to interpret. Poems and battles, Isis and Cybele, festivals and Roman 
Catholic masses, blast furnaces and gladiatorial games, dervishes and Dar- 
winians, railways and Roman roads, " Progress* ' and Nirvana, newspapers, 
mass-slavery, money, machinery — all these are equally signs and symbols in 
the world-picture of the past that the soul presents to itself and would interpret. 
"Alles Verganglkhe ist nur ein Glekhnis." Solutions and panoramas as yet un- 
imagined await the unveiling. Light will be thrown on the dark questions 
which underlie dread and longing — those deepest of primitive human feelings 
— and which the will-to-know has clothed in the " problems' ' of time, neces- 
sity, space, love, death, and first causes. There is a wondrous music of the 
spheres which mils to be heard and which a few of our deepest spirits will hear. 
The physiognomic of world-happening will become the last Faustian philosophy. 



CHAPTER V 
MAKROKOSMOS 

I 

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE WORLD-PICTURE AND THE 

SPACE-PROBLEM 



CHAPTER V 

MAKROKOSMOS 

I 

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE WORLD-PICTURE AND THE SPACE-PROBLEM 

I 

The notion of a world-history of physiognomic type expands itself therefore 
into the wider idea of an all-embracing symbolism. Historical research, in the 
sense that we postulate here, has simply to investigate the picture of the once- 
living past and to determine its inner form and logic, and the Destiny-idea is the 
furthest limit to which it can penetrate. But this research, however comprehen- 
sive the new orientation tends to make it, cannot be more than a fragment and 
a foundation of a still wider treatment. Parallel with it, we have a Nature-in- 
vestigation that is equally fragmentary and is limited to its own causal system of 
relations. But neither tragic nor technical "motion" (if we may distinguish 
by these words the respective bases of the lived and the known) exhausts the 
living itself. We both live and know when we are awake, but, in addition, we 
live when mind and senses are asleep. Though night may close every eye, the 
blood does not sleep. We are moving in the moving (so at least we try to indi- 
cate, by a word borrowed from science, the inexpressible that in sleep-hours we 
feel with inward certainty). But it is only in the waking existence that 4 4 here * ' 
and "there" appear as an irreducible duality. Every impulse proper to oneself 
has an expression and every impulse alien to oneself makes an impression. And 
thus everything of which we are conscious, whatever the form in which it is ap- 
prehended — 4 4 soul ' * and 4 4 world, ' ' or life and actuality, or History and Nature, 
or law and feeling, Destiny or God, past and future or present and eternity — 
has for us a deeper meaning still, a final meaning. And the one and only means 
of rendering this incomprehensible comprehensible must be a kind of meta- 
physics which regards everything whatsoever as having significance as a symbol. 
Symbols are sensible signs, final, indivisible and, above all, unsought im- 
pressions of definite meaning. A symbol is a trait of actuality that for the 
sensuously-alert man has an immediate and inwardly-sure significance, and that 
is incommunicable by process of reason. The detail of a Doric or Early-Arabic 
or Early-Romanesque ornament; the forms of the cottage and the family, of 
intercourse, of costume and rite; the aspect, gait and mien of a man and of whole 
classes of peoples and men; the communication- and community-forms of man 

163 



164 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

and beast; and beyond all this the whole voiceless language of Nature with her 
woods and pastures, flocks, clouds, stars, moonlight and thunderstorm, bloom 
and decay, nearness and distance — all this is the emblematical impression of 
the Cosmos upon us, who are both aware and in our reflective hours quite 
capable of listening to this language. Vice versa, it is the sense of a homogene- 
ous understanding that raises up the family, the class, the tribe, or finally the 
Culture, out of the general humanity and assembles it as such. 

Here, then, we shall not be concerned with what a world "is," but with 
what it signifies to the being that it envelops. When we wake up, at once 
something extends itself between a ' 4 here * * and a 4 4 there. * * We live the 4 ' here * ' 
as something proper, we experience the 44 there" as something alien. There is 
a dualizing of soul and world as poles of actuality; and in the latter there are 
both resistances which we grasp causally as things and properties, and impulses 
in which we feel beings, numina (" just like ourselves") to be operative. But 
there is in it, further, something which, as it were, eliminates the duality. 
Actuality — the world in relation to a soul — is for every individual the pro- 
jection of the Directed upon the domain of the Extended — the Proper mirror- 
ing itself on the Alien; one's actuality then signifies oneself. By an act that is 
both creative and unconscious — for it is not "I" who actualize the possible, 
but "it" actualizes itself through me — the bridge of symbol is thrown be- 
tween the living "here" and "there." Suddenly, necessarily, and completely 
"the" world comes into being out of the totality of received and remembered 
elements: and as it is an individual who apprehends the world, there is for each 
individual a singular world. 

There are therefore as many worlds as there are waking beings and like- 
living, like-feeling groups of beings. The supposedly single, independent and 
external world that each believes to be common to all is really an ever-new, 
uniquely-occurring and non-recurring experience in the existence of each. 

A whole series of grades of consciousness leads up from the root-beginnings 
of obscure childish intuition, in which there is still no clear world for a soul 
or self-conscious soul within a world, to the highly intellectualized states of 
which only the men of fully-ripened civilizations are capable. This gradation 
is at the same time an expansion of symbolism from the stage in which there is 
an inclusive meaning of all things to one in which separate and specific signs 
are distinguished. It is not merely when, after the manner of the child, the 
dreamer and the artist, I am passive to a world full of dark significances; or 
when I am awake without being in a condition of extreme alertness of thought 
and act (such a condition is much rarer even in the consciousness of the real 
thinker and man of action than is generally supposed) — it is continuously 
and always, for as long as my life can be considered to be a waking life at all, 
that I am endowing that which is outside me with the whole content that is in 
me, from the half-dreamy impressions of world-coherence to the rigid world of 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE * 165 

causal laws and number that overlies and binds them. And even in the domain 
of pure number the symbolical is not lacking, for we find that refined thought 
puts inexpressible meanings into signs like the triangle, the circle and the 
numbers 7 and 11. 

This is the idea of the Macrocosm^ actuality as the sum total of all symbols in rela- 
tion to one soul. From this property of being significant nothing is exempt. All 
that is, symbolizes. From the corporeal phenomena like visage, shape, mien 
(of individuals and classes and peoples alike), which have always been known 
to possess meaning, to the supposedly eternal and universally-valid forms of 
knowledge, mathematics and physics, everything speaks out of the essence of 
one and only one soul. 

At the same time these individuals' worlds as lived and experienced by men 
of one Culture or spiritual community are interrelated, and on the greater or 
less degree of this interrelation depends the greater or less communicability of 
intuitions, sensations and thoughts from one to another — that is, the possi- 
bility of making intelligible what one has created in the style of one's own 
being, through expression-media such as language or art or religion, by means 
of word-sounds or formulas or signs that are themselves also symbols. The 
degree of interrelation between one's world and another's fixes the limit at 
which understanding becomes self-deception. Certainly it is only very im- 
perfectly that we can understand the Indian or the Egyptian soul, as manifested 
in the men, customs, deities, root-words, ideas, buildings and acts of it. The 
Greeks, ahistoric as they were, could not even guess at the essence of alien 
spiritualities — witness the naivet6 with which they were wont to rediscover 
their own gods and Culture in those of alien peoples. But in our own case too, 
the current translations of the &px^> or Atman, or Tao of alien philosophers 
presuppose our proper world-feeling, which is that from which our "equiva- 
lents" claim their significance, as the basis of an alien soul-expression. And 
similarly we elucidate the characters of early Egyptian and Chinese portraits 
with reference to our own life-experience. In both cases we deceive ourselves. 
That the artistic masterpieces of all Cultures are still living for us — "im- 
mortal" as we say — is another such fancy, kept alive by the unanimity with 
which we understand the alien work in the proper sense. Of this tendency of 
ours the effect of the Laocoon group on Renaissance sculpture and that of Seneca 
on the Classicist drama of the French are examples. 



11 



Symbols, as being things actualized, belong to the domain of the extended. 
They are become and not becoming (although they may stand for a becoming) 
and they are therefore rigidly limited and subject to the laws of space. There 
are only sensible-spatial symbols. The very word 4 4 form ' ' designates something 
extended in the extended, — even the inner forms of music are no exception, 



166 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

as we shall see. But extension is the hall-mark of the fact "waking conscious- 
ness," and this constitutes only one side of the individual existence and is 
intimately bound up with that existence's destinies. Consequently, every trait 
of the actual waking-consciousness, whether it be feeling or understanding, is 
in the moment of our becoming aware of it, already -past. We can only reflect 
upon impressions, "think them over" as our happy phrase goes, but that which 
for the sensuous life of the animals is past, is for the grammatical (wortge- 
bundene) understanding of man passing, transient. That which happens is, of 
course, transient, for a happening is irrevocable, but every kind of significance 
is also transient. Follow out the destiny of the Column, from the Egyptian 
tomb-temple in which columns are ranked to mark the path for the traveller, 
through the Doric peripteros in which they are held together by the body of 
the building, and the Early-Arabian basilica where they support the interior, 
to the fagades of the Renaissance in which they provide the upward-striving 
element. As we see, an old significance never returns; that which has entered 
the domain of extension has begun and ended at once. A deep relation, and 
one which is early felt, exists between space and death. Man is the only being 
that knows death; all others become old, but with a consciousness wholly 
limited to the moment which must seem to them eternal. They live, but like 
children in those first years in which Christianity regards them as still "inno- 
cent," they know nothing of life, and they die and they see death without 
knowing anything about it. Only fully-awakened man, man proper, whose 
understanding has been emancipated by the habit of language from dependence 
on sight, comes to possess (besides sensibility) the notion of transience, that is, 
a memory of the past as past and an experiential conviction of irrevocability. 
We are Time, 1 but we possess also an image of history and in this image death, 
and with death birth, appear as the two riddles. For all other beings life 
pursues its course without suspecting its limits, i.e., without conscious knowl- 
edge of task, meaning, duration and object. It is because there is this deep and 
significant identity that we so often find the awakening of the inner life in a 
child associated with the death of some relation. The child suddenly grasps the 
lifeless corpse for what it is, something that has become wholly matter, wholly 
space, and at the same moment it feels itself as an individual being in an alien 
extended world. "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from 
the new-born baby to the child of five is an appalling distance," said Tolstoi 
once. Here, in the decisive moments of existence, when man first becomes man 
and realizes his immense loneliness in the universal, the world-fear reveals 
itself for the first time as the essentially human fear in the presence of death, 
the limit of the light-world, rigid space. Here, too, the higher thought origi- 
nates as meditation upon death. Every religion, every scientific investigation, 
every philosophy proceeds from it. Every great symbolism attaches its form- 

1 Sec p. 113 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 167 

language to the cult of the dead, the forms of disposal of the dead, the 
adornment of the graves of the dead. The Egyptian style begins with the 
tomb-temples of the Pharaohs, the Classical with the geometrical decoration 
of the funerary urns, the Arabian with catacomb and sarcophagus, the Western 
with the cathedral wherein the sacrificial death of Jesus is re-enacted daily 
under the hands of the priest. From this primitive fear springs, too, historical 
sensitiveness in all its modes, the Classical with its cleaving to the life-abundant 
present, the Arabian with its baptismal rite that wins new life and overcomes 
death, the Faustian with its contrition that makes worthy to receive the 
Body of Jesus and therewith immortality. Till we have the constatftly-wakeful 
concern for the life that is not yet -pasty there is no concern for that wh^ch is fast. 
The beast has only the future, but man knows also the past. And thus every 
new Culture is awakened in and with a new view of the world, that is, a sudden 
glimpse of death as the secret of the perceivable world. It was when the idea of 
the impending end of the world spread over Western Europe (about the year 
1000) that the Faustian soul of this religion was born. 

Primitive man, in his deep amazement before death, sought with all the 
forces of his spirit to penetrate and to spellbind this world of the extended with 
the inexorable and always present limits of its causality, this world filled with 
dark almightiness that continuously threatened to make an end of him. This 
energetic defensive lies deep in unconscious existence, but, as being the first 
impulse that genuinely projects soul and vorld as parted and opposed, it marks 
the threshold of personal conduct of life r~ Ego-feeling and world-feeling begin 
to work, and all culture, inner or outer, bearing or performance, is as a whole 
only the intensification of this being-human. Henceforward all that resists 
our sensations is not mere resistance or thing or impression, as it is for animals 
and for children also, but an expression as well. Not merely are things actually 
contained in the world-around but also they possess meaning, as phenomena in 
the world-witf. Originally they possessed only a relationship to men, but now 
there is also a relationship of men to them. They have become emblems of 
his existence. And thus the essence of every genuine — unconscious and inwardly 
necessary — symbolism proceeds from the knowledge of death in which the 
secret of space reveals itself. All symbolism implies a defensive; it is the 
expression of a deep Scheu in the old double sense of the word, 1 and its form- 
language tells at once of hostility and of reverence. 

Every thing-become is mortal. Not only peoples, languages, races and Cultures 
are transient. In a few centuries from now there will no more be a Western 
Culture, no more be German, English or French than there were Romans in the 
time of Justinian. Not that the sequence of human generations failed; it was 
the inner form of a people, which had put together a number of these genera- 
tions as a single gesture, that was no longer there. The Civis Romanus, one of 

1 See page 1x3. 



168 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the most powerful symbols of Classical being, had nevertheless, as a form, only 
a duration of some centuries. But the primitive phenomenon of the great 
Culture will itself have disappeared some day, and with it the drama of world- 
history; aye, and man himself, and beyond man the phenomenon of plant and 
animal existence on the earth's surface, the earth, the sun, the whole world 
of sun-systems. All art is mortal, not merely the individual artifacts but the 
arts themselves. One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of 
Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a coloured canvas and a sheet 
of notes may remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their 
message will have gone. Every thought, faith and science dies as soon as the 
spirits in whose worlds their "eternal truths" were true and necessary are 
extinguished. Dead, even, are the star-worlds which "appeared," a proper 
world to the proper eye, to the astronomers of the Nile and the Euphrates, for 
our eye is different from theirs; and our eye in its turn is mortal. All this we 
know. The beast does not know, and what he does not know does not exist 
in his experienced world-around. But if the image of the past vanishes, the 
longing to give a deeper meaning to the passing vanishes also. And so it is 
with reference to the purely human macrocosm that we apply the oft-quoted 
line, which shall serve as motto for all that follows: Alles Vergangliche ist nur 
ein Gleichnis. 

From this we are led, without our noticing it, back to the space-problem, 
though now it takes on a fresh and surprising form. Indeed, it is as a corollary 
to these ideas that it appears for the first time as capable of solution — or, to 
speak more modestly, of enunciation — just as the time-problem was made 
more comprehensible by way of the Destiny-idea. From the moment of our 
awakening, the fateful and directed life appears in the phenomenal life as an 
experienced depth. Everything extends itself, but it is not yet "space," not 
something established in itself but a self-extension continued from the moving 
here to the moving there. World-experience is bound up with the essence of 
depth (i.e., far-ness or distance'). In the abstract system of mathematics, "depth " 
is taken along with "length" and "breadth" as a "third" dimension; but 
this trinity of elements of like order is misleading from the outset, for in our 
impression of the spatial world these elements are unquestionably not equiva- 
lents, let alone homogeneous. Length and breadth are no doubt, experientially, 
a unit and not a mere sum, but they are (the phrase is used deliberately) 
simply a form of reception; they represent the purely sensuous impression. 
But depth is a representation of expression, of Nature, and with it begins the 
"world." 

This discrimination between the "third" and the other two dimensions, 
so called, which needless to say is wholly alien to mathematics, is inherent 
also in the opposition of the notions of sensation and contemplation. Exten- 
sion into depth converts the former into the latter; in fact, depth is the first 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 169 

and genuine dimension in the literal sense of the word. 1 In it the waking con- 
sciousness is active, whereas in the others it is strictly passive. It is the symbolic 
content of a particular order as understood by one particular Culture that is ex- 
pressed by this original fundamental and unanalysable element. The experienc- 
ing of depth (this is a premiss upon which all that follows is dependent) is an 
act, as entirely involuntary and necessary as it is creative, whereby the ego 
keeps its world, so to say, in subordination (zudiktiert erhalt). Out of the 
rain of impressions the ego fashions a formal unit, a cinematic picture, which as 
soon as it is mastered by the understanding is subjected to law and the causality 
principle; and therefore, as the projection of an individual spirit it is transient 
and mortal. • 

There is no doubt, however reason may contest it, that this extension is 
capable of infinite variety, and that it operates differently not merely as between 
child and man, or nature-man and townsman, or Chinese and Romans, but as 
between individual and individual according as they experience their worlds 
contemplatively or alertly, actively or placidly. Every artist has rendered 
Nature ' ' by line and by tone, every physicist — Greek, Arabian or German — 
has dissected " Nature* * into ultimate elements, and how is it that they have 
not all discovered the same? Because every one of them has had his own 
Nature, though — with a naivete that was really the salvation of his world-idea 
and of his own self — every one believed that he had it in common with all 
the rest. Nature is a possession which is saturated through and through with 
the most personal connotations. Nature is a function of the particular Culture. 

in 

Kant believed that he had decided the great question of whether this a 
priori element was pre-existent or obtained by experience, by his celebrated 
formula that Space is the form of perception which underlies all world impres- 
sions. But the "world" of the careless child and the dreamer undeniably 
possess this form in an insecure and hesitant way, 2 and it is only the tense, 
practical, technical treatment of the world-around — imposed on the free-moving 
being which, unlike the lilies of the fields, must care for its life — that lets 

1 The word dimension ought only to be used in the singular. It means extension but not exten- 
sions. The idea of the three directions is an out-and-out abstraction and is not contained in the im- 
mediate extension-feeling of the body (the 4 'souT). Direction as such, the direction-essence, gives 
rise to the mysterious animal sense of right and left and also the vegetable characteristic of below-tov 
above, earth to heaven. The latter is a fact felt dream-wise, the former a truth of waking existence 
to be learned and therefore capable of being transmuted. Both find expression in architecture, to 
wit, in the symmetry of the plan and the energy of the elevation, and it is only because of this that 
we specially distinguish in the " architecture " of the space around us the angle of 90 in preference, 
for example, to that of 6o°. Had not this been so, the conventional number of our "dimensions" 
would have been quite different. 

2 The want of perspective in children's drawings is emphatically not perceptible to the children 
themselves. 



i 7 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

sensuous self-extension stiffen into rational tridimensionality. And it is only 
the city-man of matured Cultures that really lives in this glaring wakefulness, 
and only for his thought that there is a Space wholly divorced from sensuous 
life, ''absolute," dead and alien to Time; and it exists not as a form of the 
intuitively-perceived but as a form of the rationally-comprehended. There is 
no manner of doubt that the "space" which Kant saw all around him with 
such unconditional certainty when he was thinking out his theory, did not 
exist in anything like so rigorous a form for his Carolingian ancestors. Kant's 
greatness consists in his having created the idea of a "form a priori,* * but not in 
the application that he gave it. We have already seen that Time is not a "form 
of perception" nor for that matter a form at all — forms exist only in the 
extended — and that there is no possibility of defining it except as a counter- 
concept to Space. But there is the further question — does this word "space" 
exactly cover the formal content of the intuitively-perceived? And beyond all 
this there is the plain fact that the "form of perception" alters with distance. 
Every distant mountain range is "perceived" as a scenic plane. No one will 
pretend that he sees the moon as a body; for the eye it is a pure plane and it is 
only by the aid of the telescope — i.e. when the distance is artificially reduced 
— that it progressively obtains a spatial form. Obviously, then, the "form 
of perception" is a function of distance. Moreover, when we reflect upon 
anything, we do not exactly remember the impressions that we received at 
the time, but "represent to ourselves" the picture of a space abstracted from 
them. But this representation may and does deceive us regarding the living 
actuality. Kant let himself be misled; he should certainly not have permitted 
himself to distinguish between forms of perception and forms of ratiocina- 
tion, for his notion of Space in principle embraced both. 1 

Just as Kant marred the Time-problem by bringing it into relation with an 
essentially misunderstood arithmetic and — on that basis — dealing with a 
phantom sort of time that lacks the life-quality of direction and is therefore 
a mere spatial scheme, so also he marred the Space-problem by relating it to 
a common-place geometry. 

It befell that a few years after the completion of Kant's main work Gauss 

discovered the first of the Non-Euclidean geometries. These, irreproachably 

1 His idea that the a priori-ness of space was proved by and through the unconditional validity 
of simple geometrical facts rests, as we have already remarked, on the all-too-popular notion that 
mathematics are either geometry or arithmetic. Now, even in Kant's time the mathematic of the 
West had got far beyond this naive scheme, which was a mere imitation of the Classical. Modern 
geometry bases itself not on space but on multiply-infinite number-manifolds — amongst which the 
three-dimensional is simply the undistinguished special case — and within these groups investigates 
functional formations with reference to their structure; that is, there is no longer any contact or even 
possibility of contact between any possible kind of sense-perception and mathematical facts in the 
domain of such extensions as these, and yet the demonstrability of the latter is in no wise impaired 
thereby. Mathematics, then, are independent of the perceived, and the question now is, how much 
of this famous demonstrability of the forms of perception is left when the artificiality of juxtapos- 
ing both in a supposedly single process of experience has been recognized. 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 171 

demonstrated as regards their own internal validity, enable it to be proved that 
there are several strictly mathematical kinds of three-dimensional extension, all 
of which are a priori certain, and none of which can be singled out to rank as 
the genuine "form of perception." 

It was a grave, and in a contemporary of Euler and Lagrange an unpardon- 
able, error to postulate that the Classical school-geometry (for it was that 
which Kant always had in mind) was to be found reproduced in the forms of 
Nature around us. In moments of attentive observation at very short range, 
and in cases in which the relations considered are sufficiently small, the living 
impressions and the rules of customary geometry are certainly in approximate 
agreement. But the exact conformity asserted by philosophy can be demon- 
strated neither by the eye nor by measuring-instruments. Both these must 
always stop short at a certain limit of accuracy which is very far indeed be- 
low that which would be necessary, say, for determining which of the Non- 
Euclidean geometries is the geometry of " empirical* ' Space. 1 On the large 
scales and for great distances, where the experience of depth completely domi- 
nates the perception-picture (for example, looking on a broad landscape as 
against a drawing) the form of perception is in fundamental contradiction with 
mathematics. A glance down any avenue shows us that parallels meet at the 
horizon. Western perspective and the otherwise quite different perspective 
of Chinese painting are both alike based on this fact, and the connexion of 
these perspectives with the root-problems of their respective mathematics is 
unmistakable. 

Experiential Depth, in the infinite variety of its modes, eludes every sort 
of numerical definition. The whole of lyric poetry and music, the entire paint- 
ing of Egypt, China and the West by hypothesis deny any strictly mathematical 
structure in space as felt and seen, and it is only because all modern philosophers 
have been destitute of the smallest understanding of painting that they have 
failed to note the contradiction. The "horizon" in and by which every visual 
image gradually -passes into a definitive plane, is incapable of any mathematical 
treatment. Every stroke of a landscape painter's brush refutes the assertions 
of conventional epistemology. 

As mathematical magnitudes abstract from life, the "three dimensions* ' 
have no natural limits. But when this proposition becomes entangled with the 
surface-and-depth of experienced impression, the original epistemological error 
leads to another, viz., that apprehended extension is also without limits, 
although in fact our vision only comprises the illuminated portion of space 
and stops at the light-limit of the particular moment, which may be the star- 
heavens or merely the bright atmosphere. The "visual" world is the totality 

1 It is true that a geometrical theorem may be proved, or rather demonstrated, by means of a 
drawing. But the theorem is differently constituted in every kind of geometry, and that being so, 
the drawing ceases to be a poof of anything whatever. 



i 7 z THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

of light-resistances, since vision depends on the presence of radiated or reflected 
light. The Greeks took their stand on this and stayed there. It is the Western 
world-feeling that has produced the idea of a limitless universe of space — a 
space of infinite star-systems and distances that far transcends all optical pos- 
sibilities — and this was a creation of the inner vision, incapable of all actuali- 
zation through the eye, and, even as an idea, alien to and unachievable by the 
men of a differently-disposed Culture. 

IV 

The outcome, then, of Gauss's discovery, which completely altered the course 
of modern mathematics, 1 was the statement that there are severally equally 
valid structures of three-dimensional extension. That it should even be asked 
which of them corresponds to actual perception shows that the problem was 
not in the least comprehended. Mathematics, whether or not it employs visible 
images and representations as working conveniences, concerns itself with sys- 
tems that are entirely emancipated from life, time and distance, with form- 
worlds of pure numbers whose validity — not fact-foundation — is timeless 
and like everything else that is "known" is known by causal logic and not 
experienced. 

With this, the difference between the living intuition-way and the mathe- 
matical form-language became manifest and the secret of spatial becoming opened 
out. 

As becoming is the foundation of the become, continuous living history 
that of fulfilled dead nature, the organic that of the mechanical, destiny that 
of causal law and the causally-settled, so too direction is the origin of extension. 
The secret of Life accomplishing itself which is touched upon by the word Time forms the 
foundation of that which, as accomplished, is understood by (or rather indicated to an 
inner feeling in us by) the word Space. Every extension that is actual has first been 
accomplished in and with an experience of depth, and what is primarily indi- 
cated by the word Time is just this process of extending, first sensuously (in the 
main, visually) and only later intellectually, into depth and distance, i.e., the 
step from the planar semi-impression to the macrocosmically ordered world-pic- 
ture with its mysterious-manifest kinesis. We feel — and the feeling is what 
constitutes the state of all-round awareness in us — that we are in an extension 
that encircles us; and it is only necessary to follow out this original impression 
that we have of the worldly to see that in reality there is only one true 4 ' dimen- 
sion * * of space, which is direction from one's self outwards into the distance, the 
"there" and the future, and that the abstract system of three dimensions is a 
mechanical representation and not a fact of life. By the depth-experience sensa- 
tion is expanded into the world. We have seen already that the directedness that 

1 So much so that Gauss said nothing about his. discovery until almost the end of his life for 
tear of "the clamour of the Boeotians." 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 173 

is in life wears the badge of irreversibility, and there is something of this same 
hall-mark of Time in our instinctive tendency to feel the depth that is in the 
world uni-directionally also — viz., from ourselves outwards, and never from 
the horizon inwards. The bodily mobility of man and beast is disposed in 
this sense. We move forward — towards the Future, nearing with every step 
not merely our aim but our old age — and we feel every backward look as a 
glance at something that is past, that has already become history. 1 

If we can describe the basic form of the understood, viz., causality, as destiny 
become rigid, we may similarly speak of spatial depth as a time become rigid. That 
which not only man but even the beast feels operative around him as destiny, 
he perceives by touching, looking, listening, scenting as movement, and under 
his intense scrutiny it stiffens and becomes causal. We feel that it is drawing 
towards spring and we feel in advance how the spring landscape expands around 
us; but we know that the earth as it moves in space revolves and that the duration 
of spring consists of ninety such revolutions of the earth, or days. Time gives 
birth to Space, but Space gives death to Time. 

Had Kant been more precise, he would, instead of speaking of the "two 
forms of perception," have called time the form of perception and space the 
form of the perceived, and then the connexion of the two would probably have 
revealed itself to him. The logician, mathematician, or scientist in his moments 
of intense thought, knows only the Become — which has been detached from 
the singular event by the very act of meditating upon it — and true systematic 
space — in which everything possesses the property of a mathematically- 
expressible "duration." But it is just this that indicates to us how space is 
continuously "becoming." While we gaze into the distance with our senses, 
it floats around us, but when we are startled, the alert eye sees a tense and rigid 
space. This space is; the principle of its existing at all is that it is, outside time 
and detached from it and from life. In it duration, a piece of perished time, 
resides as a known property of things. And, as we know ourselves too as 
being in this space, we know that we also have a duration and a limit, of which 
the moving finger of our clock ceaselessly warns us. But the rigid Space itself 
is transient too — at the first relaxation of our intellectual tension it vanishes 
from the many-coloured spread of our world-around — and so it is a sign and 
symbol of the most elemental and powerful symbol, of life itself. 

For the involuntary and unqualified realization of depth, which dominates 
the consciousness with the force of an elemental event (simultaneously with the 
awakeningof the inner life), m.2xks the frontier between child and . . . Man, The 
symbolic experience of depth is what is lacking in the child, who grasps at the 
moon and knows as yet no meaning in the outer world but, like the soul of 
primitive man, dawns in a dreamlike continuum of sensations (in traumhafter 

x The distinction of right and left (see p. 169) is only conceivable as the outcome of this directed- 
ncss in the dispositions of the body. "In front " has no meaning whatever for the body of a plant. 



174 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Verbundenheit mit allem Empfindungshaften hindammert). Of course the child 
is not without experience of the extended, of a very simple kind, but there is 
no world-perception; distance is felt, but it does not yet speak to the soul. And 
with the soul's awakening, direction, too, first reaches living expression — 
Classical expression in steady adherence to the near-present and exclusion of 
the distant and future; Faustian in direction-energy which has an eye only for 
the most distant horizons; Chinese, in free hither-and-thither wandering that 
nevertheless goes to the goal; Egyptian in resolute march down the path once 
entered. Thus the Destiny-idea manifests itself in every line of a life. With it 
alone do we become members of a particular Culture, whose members are con- 
nected by a common world-feeling and a common world-form derived from it. 
A deep identity unites the awakening of the soul, its birth into clear existence 
in the name of a Culture, with the sudden realization of distance and time, the 
birth of its outer world through the symbol of extension; and thenceforth this 
symbol is and remains the prime symbol of that life, imparting to it its specific 
style and the historical form in which it progressively actualizes its inward 
possibilities. From the specific directedness is derived the specific prime- 
symbol of extension, namely, for the Classical world-view the near, strictly 
limited, self-contained Body, for the Western infinitely wide and infinitely 
profound three-dimensional Space, for the Arabian the world as a Cavern. And 
therewith an old philosophical problem dissolves into nothing: this prime form 
of the world is innate in so far as it is an original possession of the soul of that 
Culture which is expressed by our life as a whole, and acquired in so far that 
every individual soul re-enacts for itself that creative act and unfolds in early 
childhood the symbol of depth to which its existence is predestined, as the 
emerging butterfly unfolds its wings. The first comprehension of depth is an 
act of birth — the spiritual complement of the bodily. 1 In it the Culture is born 
out of its mother-landscape, and the act is repeated by every one of its individual 
souls throughout its life-course. This is what Plato — connecting it with an 
early Hellenic belief — called anamnesis. The definiteness of the world-form, 
which for each dawning soul suddenly is, derives meaning from Becoming. 
Kant the systematic, however, with his conception of the form a priori, would 
approach the interpretation of this very riddle from a dead result instead of 
along a living way. 

From now on, we shall consider the kind of extension as the prime symbol of a 
Culture. From it we are to deduce the entire form-language of its actuality, its 
physiognomy as contrasted with the physiognomy of every other Culture and 
still more with the almost entire lack of physiognomy in primitive man's 
world-around. For now the interpretation of depth rises to acts, to formative 
expression in works, to the trans-iorming of actuality, not now merely in order 

* It may not be out of place here to refer to the enormous importance attached in savage 
society to initiation-rites at adolescence. — Tr. 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 175 

to subserve necessities of life (as in the case of the animals) but above all to 
create a picture out of extensional elements of all sorts (material, line, colour, 
tone, motion) — a picture, often, that re-emerges with power to charm after 
lost centuries in the world-picture of another Culture and tells new men of the 
way in which its authors understood the world. 

But the prime symbol does not actualize itself; it is operative through the 
form-sense of every man, every community, age and epoch and dictates the 
style of every life-expression. It is inherent in the form of the state, the religious 
myths and cults, the ethical ideals, the forms of painting and music and poetry, 
the fundamental notions of each science — but it is not presented by these. 
Consequently, it is not presentable by words, for language and words are them- 
selves derived symbols. Every individual symbol tells of it, but only to the inner 
feelings, not to the understanding. And when we say, as henceforth we shall 
say, that the prime-symbol of the Classical soul is the material and individual 
body, that of the Western pure infinite space, it must always be with the 
reservation that concepts cannot represent the inconceivable, and thus at the 
most a significative feeling may be evoked by the sound of words. 

Infinite space is the ideal that the Western soul has always striven to find, 
and to see immediately actualized, in its world-around; and hence it is that the 
countless space-theories of the last centuries possess — over and above all osten- 
sible "results " — a deep import as symptoms of a world-feeling. In how far 
does unlimited extension underlie all objective things? There is hardly a single 
problem that has been more earnestly pondered than this; it would almost seem 
as if every other world-question was dependent upon the one problem of the 
nature of space. And is it not in fact so — for us? And how, then, has it 
escaped notice that the whole Classical world never expended one word on it, 
and indeed did not even possess a word 1 by which the problem could be exactly 
outlined? Why had the great pre-Socratics nothing to say on it? Did they 
overlook in their world just that which appears to us the problem of all prob- 
lems? Ought we not, in fact, to have seen long ago that the answer is in the 
very fact of their silence? How is it that according to our deepest feeling the 
"world" is nothing but that world-of-space which is the true offspring of our 
depth-experience, and whose grand emptiness is corroborated by the star- 
systems lost in it? Could a "world" of this sense have been made even com- 
prehensible to a Classical thinker? In short, we suddenly discover that the 
"eternal problem" that Kant, in the name of humanity, tackled with a passion 

1 Either in Greek or in Latin, rhiros (= locus) means spot, locality, and also social position; 
X&pa (= spatium) means space-between, distance, rank, and also ground and soil (e.g., tA kit ttjs x&pa?, 
produce); t6 nkvov (vacuum) means quite unequivocally a hollow body, and the stress is emphatically 
on the envelope. The literature of the Roman Imperial Age, which attempted to render the Magian 
world-feeling through Classical words, was reduced to such clumsy versions as dparbs t6ttos (sen- 
sible world) or spatium inane ("endless space," but also "wide surface" — the root of the word 
"spatium*' means to swell or grow fat). In the true Classical literature, the idea not being there, 
there was no necessity for a word to describe it. 



176 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

that itself is symbolic, is a purely Western problem that simply does not arise 
in the intellects of other Cultures. 

What then was it that Classical man, whose insight into his own world- 
around was certainly not less piercing than ours, regarded as the prime problem 
of all being? It was the problem of apxh, the material origin and foundation of 
all sensuously-perceptible things. If we grasp this we shall get close to the 
significance of the fact — not the fact of space, but the fact that made it a 
necessity of destiny for the space-problem to become the problem of the West- 
ern, and only the Western, soul. 1 This very spatiality (Raumlichkeit) that is 
the truest and sublimest element in the aspect of our universe, that absorbs into 
itself and begets out of itself the substantiality of all things, Classical humanity 
(which knows no word for, and therefore has no idea of, space) with one accord 
cuts out as the nonent, to /zi) ov, that which is not. The pathos of this denial 
can scarcely be exaggerated. The whole passion of the Classical soul is in this 
act of excluding by symbolic negation that which it would not feel as actual, 
that in which its own existence could not be expressed. A world of other colour 
suddenly confronts us here. The Classical statue in its splendid bodiliness — 
all structure and expressive surfaces and no incorporeal arriere-pensee whatsoever 
— contains without remainder all that Actuality is for the Classical eye. The 
material, the optically definite, the comprehensible, the immediately present — 
this list exhausts the characteristics of this kind of extension. The Classical 
universe, the Cosmos or well-ordered aggregate of all near and completely view- 

1 It has not hitherto been seen that this fact is implicit in Euclid's famous parallel axiom 
("through a point only one parallel to a straight line is possible"). 

This was the only one of the Classical theorems which remained unproved, and as we know now, 
it is incapable of proof. But it was just that which made it into a dogma (as opposed to any ex- 
perience) and therefore the metaphysical centre and main girder of that geometrical system. Everything 
else, axiom or postulate, is merely introductory or corollary to this. This one proposition is neces- 
sary and universally-valid for the Classical intellect, and yet not deducible. What does this signify? 

It signifies that the statement is a symbol of the first rank. It contains the structure of Classical 
corporeality. It is just this proposition, theoretically the weakest link in the Classical geometry 
(objections began to be raised to it as early as Hellenistic times), that reveals its soul, and it was just 
this proposition, self-evident within the limits of routine experience, that the Faustian number- 
thinking, derived from incorporeal spatial distances, fastened upon as the centre of doubt. It is one 
of the deepest symbols of our being that we have opposed to the Euclidean geometry not one but 
several other geometries all of which for us are equally true and self-consistent. The specific tendency 
of the anti-Euclidean group of geometries — in which there may be no parallel or two parallels or 
several parallels to a line through a point — lies in the fact that by their very plurality the corporeal 
sense of extension, which Euclid canonized by his principle, is entirely got rid of; for what they 
reject is that which all corporeal postulates but all spatial denies. The question of which of the 
three Non-Euclidean geometries is the "correct" one (i.e., that which underlies actuality) — 
although Gauss himself gave it earnest consideration — is in respect of world-feeling entirely Classi- 
cal and therefore it should not have been asked by a thinker of our sphere. Indeed it prevents us from 
seeing the true and deep meaning implicit in the plurality of these geometries. The specifically 
Western symbol resides not in the reality of one or of another, but in the true plurality of equally 
possible geometries. It is the group of space-structures — in the abundance of which the classical 
system is a mere particular case — that has dissolved the last residuum of the corporeal into the pure 
space-feeling. 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 177 

able things, is concluded by the corporeal vault of heaven. More there is 
not. The need that is in us to think of "space" as being behind as well as 
before this shell was wholly absent from the Classical world-feeling. The 
Stoics went so far as to treat even properties and relations of things as "bodies. " 
For Chrysippus, the Divine Pneuma is a "body," for Democritus seeing con- 
sists in our being penetrated by material particles of the things seen. The 
State is a body which is made up of all the bodies of its citizens, the law knows 
only corporeal persons and material things. And the feeling finds its last and 
noblest expression in the stone body of the Classical temple. The windowless 
interior is carefully concealed by the array of columns; but outside there is not 
one truly straight line to be found. Every flight of steps has a slight sweep 
outward, every step relatively to the next. The pediment, the roof-ridge, the 
sides are all curved. Every column has a slight swell and none stand truly 
vertical or truly equidistant from one another. But swell and inclination and 
distance vary from the corners to the centres of the sides in a carefully toned-off 
ratio, and so the whole corpus is given a something that swings mysterious 
about a centre. The curvatures are so fine that to a certain extent they are 
invisible to the eye and only to be "sensed." But it is just by these means that 
direction in depth is eliminated. While the Gothic style soars, the Ionic swings. 
The interior of the cathedral pulls up with primeval force, but the temple is 
laid down in majestic rest. All this is equally true as relating to the Faustian 
and Apollinian Deity, and likewise of the fundamental ideas of the respective 
physics. To the principles of position, material and form we have opposed 
those of straining movement, force and mass, and we have defined the last- 
named as a constant ratio between force and acceleration, nay, finally volatilized 
both in the purely spatial elements of capacity and intensity. It was an obligatory 
consequence also of this way of conceiving actuality that the instrumental 
music of the great 18th-century masters should emerge as a master-art — for it 
is the only one of the arts whose form-world is inwardly related to the con- 
templative vision of pure space. In it, as opposed to the statues of Classical 
temple and forum, we have bodiless realms of tone, tone-intervals, tone-seas. 
The orchestra swells, breaks, and ebbs, it depicts distances, lights, shadows, 
storms, driving clouds, lightning flashes, colours etherealized and transcendent 
— think of the instrumentation of Gluck and Beethoven. "Contemporary," 
in our sense, with the Canon of Polycletus, the treatise in which the great 
sculptor laid down the strict rules of human body-build which remained 
authoritative till beyond Lysippus, we find the strict canon (completed by 
Stamitz about 1740) of the sonata-movement of four elements which begins 
to relax in late-Beethoven quartets and symphonies and, finally, in the lonely, 
utterly infinitesimal tone-world of the "Tristan" music, frees itself from all 
earthly comprehensibleness. This prime feeling of a loosing, Erlosung, solution, 
of the Soul in the Infinite, of a liberation from all material heaviness which the 



178 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

highest moments of our music always awaken, sets free also the energy of depth 
that is in the Faustian soul: whereas the effect of the Classical art-work is to 
bind and to bound, and the body-feeling secures, brings back the eye from 
distance to a Near and Still that is saturated with beauty. 



Each of the great Cultures, then, has arrived at a secret language of world- 
feeling that is only fully comprehensible by him whose soul belongs to that 
Culture. We must not deceive ourselves. Perhaps we can read a little way 
into the Classical soul, because its form-language is almost the exact inversion 
of the Western; how far we have succeeded or can ever succeed is a question 
which necessarily forms the starting-point of all criticism of the Renaissance, 
and it is a very difficult one. But when we are told that probably (it is at best a 
doubtful venture to meditate upon so alien an expression of Being) the Indians 
conceived numbers which according to our ideas possessed neither value nor 
magnitude nor relativity, and which only became positive and negative, great 
or small units in virtue of position, we have to admit that it is impossible for 
us exactly to re-experience what spiritually underlies this kind of number. For 
us, 3 is always something, be it positive or negative; for the Greeks it was un- 
conditionally a positive magnitude, +3 ; but for the Indian it indicates a possi- 
bility without existence, to which the word " something" is not yet applicable, 
outside both existence and non-existence which are properties to be introduced 
into it. +3, —3, J, are thus emanating actualities of subordinate rank which 
reside in the mysterious substance (3) in some way that is entirely hidden from 
us. It takes a Brahmanic soul to perceive these numbers as self-evident, as ideal 
emblems of a self-complete world-form; to us they are as unintelligible as is the 
Brahman Nirvana, for which, as lying beyond life and death, sleep and waking, 
passion, compassion and dispassion and yet somehow actual, words entirely 
fail us. Only this spirituality could originate the grand conception of nothing- 
ness as a true number, %ero, and even then this zero is the Indian zero for which 
existent and non-existent are equally external designations. 1 

Arabian thinkers of the ripest period — and they included minds of the very 
first order like Alfarabi and Alkabi — in controverting the ontology of Aris- 
totle, proved that the body as such did not necessarily assume space for existence, 
and deduced the essence of this space — the Arabian kind of extension, that is — 
from the characteristic of "one's being in a position." 

1 This zero, which probably Contains a suggestion of the Indian idea of extension — of that 
spatiality of the world that is treated in the Upanishads and is entirely alien to our space-conscious- 
ness — was of course wholly absent in the Classical. By way of the Arabian mathematics (which 
completely transformed its meaning) it reached the West, where it was only introduced in 1554 by 
Stipcl, with its sense, moreover, again fundamentally changed, for it became the mean of +1 and 
-1 as a cut in a linear continuum, i.e., it was assimilated to the Western number- world in a wholly 
un-Indian sense of relation. 



SYMBOLISM AND SPACE 179 

But this does not prove that as against Aristotle and Kant they were in error 
or that their thinking was muddled (as we so readily say of what our own 
brains cannot take in). It shows that the Arabian spirit possessed other world- 
categories than our own. They could have rebutted Kant, or Kant them, with 
the same subtlety of proof — and both disputants would have remained con- 
vinced of the correctness of their respective standpoints. 

When we talk of space to-day, we are all thinking more or less in the same 
style, just as we are all using the same languages and word-signs, whether we 
are considering mathematical space or physical space or the space of painting 
or that of actuality, although all philosophizing that insists (as it must) upon 
putting an identity of understanding in the place of such kinship of significance- 
feeling must remain somewhat questionable. But no Hellene or Egyptian or 
Chinaman could re-experience any part of those feelings of ours, and no art- 
work or thought-system could possibly convey to him unequivocally what 
"space" means for us. Again, the prime conceptions originated in the quite 
differently constituted soul of the Greek, like &pxh> UX77, Atop^, comprise the 
whole content of his world. But this world is differently constituted from ours. 
It is, for us, alien and remote. We may take these words of Greek and translate 
them by words of our own like 4 ' origin, ' ' 4 4 matter ' ' and 4 4 form, ' ' but it is mere 
imitation, a feeble effort to penetrate into a world of feeling in which the finest 
and deepest elements, in spite of all we can do, remain dumb; it is as though 
one tried to set the Parthenon sculptures for a string quartet, or cast Voltaire's 
God in bronze. The master-traits of thought, life and world-consciousness are 
as manifold and different as the features of individual men; in those respects 
as in others there are distinctions of 44 races" and 44 peoples," and men are as 
unconscious of these distinctions as they are ignorant of whether "red" and 
"yellow" do or do not mean the same for others as for themselves. It is par- 
ticularly the common symbolic of language that nourishes the illusion of a 
homogeneous constitution of human inner-life and an identical world-form; 
in this respect the great thinkers of one and another Culture resemble the 
colour-blind in that each is unaware of his own condition and smiles at the 
errors of the rest. 

And now I draw the conclusions. There is a plurality of prime symbols.' 
It is the depth-experience through which the world becomes, through which 
perception extends itself to world. Its signification is for the soul to which it 
belongs and only for that soul, and it is different in waking and dreaming, 
acceptance and scrutiny, as between young and old, townsmen and peasant, 
man and woman. It actualizes for every high Culture the possibility of form 
upon which that Culture's existence rests and it does so of deep necessity. All 
fundamentals words like our mass, substance, material, thing, body, extension 
(and multitudes of words of the like order in other culture-tongues) are em- 
blems, obligatory and determined by destiny, that out of the infinite abundance 



i8o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

of world-possibilities evoke in the name of the individual Culture those possi- 
bilities that alone are significant and therefore necessary for it. None of them 
is exactly transferable just as it is into the experiential living and knowing of 
another Culture. And none of these prime words ever recurs. The choice of -prime 
symbol in" the moment of the Culture-soul's awakening into self-consciousness 
on its own soil — a moment that for one who can read world-history thus 
contains something catastrophic — decides all. 

Culture, as the soul's total expression 44 become" and perceptible in ges- 
tures and works, as its mortal transient body, obnoxious to law, num- 
ber and causality: 
As the historical drama, a picture in the whole picture of world- 
history: 
As the sum of grand emblems of life, feeling and understanding: 
— this is the language through which alone a soul can tell of what it undergoes. 

The macrocosm, too, is a property of the individual soul; we can never know 
how it stands with the soul of another. That which is implied by * 4 infinite 
space," the space that 44 passeth all understanding," which is the creative 
interpretation of depth-experience proper and peculiar to us men of the West — 
the kind of extension that is nothingness to the Greeks, the Universe to us — 
dyes our world in a colour that the Classical, the Indian and the Egyptian souls 
had not on their palettes. One soul listens to the world-experience in A flat 
major, another in F minor; one apprehends it in the Euclidean spirit, another 
in the contrapuntal, a third in the Magian spirit. From the purest analytical 
Space and from Nirvana to the most somatic reality of Athens, there is a series 
of prime symbols each of which is capable of forming a complete world out of 
itself. And, as the idea of the Babylonian or that of the Indian world was 
remote, strange and elusive for the men of the five or six Cultures that followed, 
so also the Western world will be incomprehensible to the men of Cultures 
yet unborn. 



CHAPTER VI 
MAKROKOSMOS 

II 
APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN AND MAGIAN SOUL 



CHAPTER VI 

MAKROKOSMOS 

II 
APOLUNIAN, FAUSTIAN AND MAGIAN SOUL 



Henceforth we shall designate the soul of the Classical Culture, which chose 
the sensuously-present individual body as the ideal type of the extended, by the 
name (familiarized by Nietzsche) of the Apollinian. In opposition to it we have 
the Faustian soul, whose prime-symbol is pure and limitless space, and whose 
"body" is the Western Culture that blossomed forth with the birth of the 
Romanesque style in the ioth century in the Northern plain between the Elbe 
and the Tagus. The nude statue is Apollinian, the art of the fugue Faustian. 
Apollinian are: mechanical statics, the sensuous cult of the Olympian gods, 
the politically individual city-states of Greece, the doom of CEdipus and the 
phallus-symbol. Faustian are: Galileian dynamics, Catholic and Protestant 
dogmatics, the great dynasties of the Baroque with their cabinet diplomacy, 
the destiny of Lear and the Madonna-ideal from Dante's Beatrice to the last 
line of Faust II. The painting that defines the individual body by contours 
is Apollinian, that which forms space by means of light and shade is Faustian — 
this is the difference between the fresco of Polygnotus and the oil painting of 
Rembrandt. The Apollinian existence is that of the Greek who describes his 
ego as soma and who lacks all idea of an inner development and therefore all 
real history, inward and outward; the Faustian is an existence which is led 
with a deep consciousness and introspection of the ego, and a resolutely per- 
sonal culture evidenced in memoirs, reflections, retrospects and prospects and 
conscience. And in the time of Augustus, in the countries between Nile 
and Tigris, Black Sea and South Arabia, there appears — aloof but able to 
speak to us through forms borrowed, adopted and inherited — the Magian 
soul of the Arabian Culture with its algebra, astrology and alchemy, its 
mosaics and arabesques, its caliphates and mosques, and the sacraments and 
scriptures of the Persian, Jewish, Christian, "post-Classical" and Manichsean 
religions. 

"Space" — speaking now in the Faustian idiom — is a spiritual something, 
rigidly distinct from the momentary sense-present, which could not be repre- 
sented in an Apollinian language, whether Greek or Latin. But the created 

183 



184 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

expression-space of the Apollinian arts is equally alien to ours. The tiny cella 
of the early-Classical temple was a dumb dark nothingness, a structure (origin- 
ally) of perishable material, an envelope of the moment in contrast to the 
eternal vaults of Magian cupolas and Gothic naves, and the closed ranks of 
columns were expressly meant to convey that for the eye at any rate this body 
possessed no Inward. In no other Culture is the firm footing, the socket, so 
emphasized. The Doric column bores into the ground, the vessels are always 
thought of from below upward (whereas those of the Renaissance float above 
their footing), and the sculpture-schools feel the stabilizing of their figures as 
their main problem. Hence in archaic works the legs are disproportionately 
emphasized, the foot is planted on the full sole, and if the drapery falls straight 
down, a part of the hem is removed to show that the foot is standing. The 
Classical relief is strictly stereometrically set on a plane, and there is an inter- 
space between the figures but no depth. A landscape of Claude Lorrain, on 
the contrary, is nothing but space, every detail being made to subserve its illus- 
tration. All bodies in it possess an atmospheric and perspective meaning purely 
as carriers of light and shade. The extreme of this disembodiment of the world 
in the service of space is Impressionism. Given this world-feeling, the Faustian 
soul in the springtime necessarily arrived at an architectural problem which 
had its centre of gravity in the spatial vaulting-over of vast, and from porch 
to choir dynamically deep, cathedrals. This last expressed its depth-experience. 
But with it was associated, in opposition to the cavernous Magian expression- 
space, 1 the element of a soaring into the broad universe. Magian roofing, 
whether it be cupola or barrel-vault or even the horizontal baulk of a basilica, 
covers in. Strzygowski 2 has very aptly described the architectural idea of 
Hagia Sophia as an introverted Gothic striving under a closed outer casing. On 
the other hand, in the cathedral of Florence the cupola crowns the long Gothic 
body of 1367, and the same tendency rose in Bramante's scheme for St. Peter's 
to a veritable towering-up, a magnificent "Excelsior," that Michelangelo 
carried to completion with the dome that floats high and bright over the vast 
vaulting. To this sense of space the Classical opposes the symbol of the Doric 
peripteros, wholly corporeal and comprehensible in one glance. 

The Classical Culture begins, then, with a great renunciation. A rich, pic- 
torial, almost over-ripe art lay ready to its hand. But this could not become the 
expression of the young soul, and so from about 1100 b.c. the harsh, narrow, and 
to our eyes scanty and barbaric, early-Doric geometrical style appears in opposi- 
tion to the Minoan. 3 For the three centuries which correspond to the flower- 
ing of our Gothic, there is no hint of an architecture, and it is only at about 
650 b.c, "contemporarily" with Michelangelo's transition into the Baroque, 

1 The word Hohkngefuhl is Leo Frobenius's (Paideuma, p. 91). (The Early-Christian Church of 
the Nativity at Bethlehem [a.d. 32.7] is built over a natural cave. — Tr.*) 
8 Strzygowski's Ursprung der Christlichen Kircbenkunst (1910), p. 80. 
* See Vol. II, p. 101 et seq. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 185 

that the Doric and Etruscan temple-type arises. All "Early" art is religious, 
and this symbolic Negation is not less so than the Egyptian and the Gothic 
Affirmation. The idea of burning the dead accords with the cult-site but not 
with the cult-building; and the Early Classical religion which conceals itself 
from us behind the solemn names of Calchas, Tiresias, Orpheus and (probably) 
Numa l possessed for its rites simply that which is left of an architectural idea 
when one has subtracted the architecture, viz., the sacred precinct. The original 
cult-plan is thus the Etruscan templum, a sacred area merely staked off on the 
ground by the augurs with an impassable boundary and a propitious entrance 
on the East side. 2 A " templum ' ' was created where a rite was to be performed 
or where the representative of the state authority, senate or army, happened to 
be. It existed only for the duration of its use, and the spell was then removed. 
It was probably only about 700 b.c. that the Classical soul so far mastered itself 
as to represent this architectural Nothing in the sensible form of a built body. 
In the long run the Euclidean feeling proved stronger than the mere antipathy 
to duration. 

Faustian architecture, on the contrary, begins on the grand scale simultane- 
ously with the first stirrings of a new piety (the Cluniac reform, c. 1000) and a 
new thought (the Eucharistic controversy between Berengar of Tours and 
Lanfranc 105 o), 3 and proceeds at once to plans of gigantic intention; often 
enough, as in the case of Speyer, the whole community did not suffice to fill 
the cathedral, 4 and often again it proved impossible to complete the projected 
scheme. The passionate language of this architecture is that of the poems 
too. 6 Far apart as may seem the Christian hymnology of the south and the 
Eddas of the still heathen north, they are alike in the implicit space-endlessness 
of prosody, rhythmic syntax and imagery. Read the Dies Ira together with 
the Voluspa, 6 which is little earlier; there is the same adamantine will to over- 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 345 et seq. 

2 Muller-Decker, Die Etrusker (1877), II, pp. 12.8 et seq. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus dtr Komer 
(1911), p. 52.7. The oldest plan of Roma Quadrata was a "templum*' whose limits had nothing to 
do with the building-up of the city but were connected with sacral rules, as the significance of this 
precinct (the " Pomoerium ") in later times shows. A "templum," too, was the Roman camp whose 
rectangular outline is visible to-day in many a Roman-founded town; it was the consecrated area 
within which the army felt itself under the protection of its gods, and originally had nothing what- 
ever to do with fortification, which is a product of Hellenistic times. (It may be added that Roman 
camps retained their rigidity of outline even where obvious "military considerations" of ground, 
etc., must have suggested its modification. — Tr.) Most Roman stone-temples Q'ades"') were not 
"templa" at all. On the other hand, the early Greek rknevos of Homeric times must have had a 
similar significance. 

3 The student may consult the articles "Church History," " Monasticism," "Eucharist" and 
other articles therein referred to in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, XI Edition. — Tr. 

4 English readers may remember that Cobbett ("Rural Rides," passim) was so impressed with 
the spaciousness of English country churches as to formulate a theory that mediaeval England must 
have been more populous than modern England is. — Tr. 

6 Cf. my introduction to Ernst Droem's Gesange, p. ix. 

8 The oldest and most mystical of the poems of the "Elder Edda." — Tr. 



186 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

come and break all resistances of the visible. No rhythm ever imagined radiates 

immensities of space and distance as the old Northern does: 

Zum Unheil wcrden — noch allzulange 
Manner und Weiber — zur Welt geboren 
Abcr wir beide — bleiben zusammen 

Ich und Sigurd. 

The accents of the Homeric hexameter are the soft rustle of a leaf in the 
midday sun, the rhythm of matter; but the "Stabreim," like "potential energy" 
in the world-pictures of modern physics, creates a tense restraint in the void 
without limits, distant night-storms above the highest peaks. In its swaying 
indefiniteness all words and things dissolve themselves — it is the dynamics, 
not the statics, of language. The same applies to the grave rhythm of Media 
vita in morte sumus. Here is heralded the colour of Rembrandt and the instru- 
mentation of Beethoven — here infinite solitude is felt as the home of the Faust tan 
soul. What is Valhalla? Unknown to the Germans of the Migrations and even 
to the Merovingian Age, it was conceived by the nascent Faustian soul. It was 
conceived, no doubt, under Classic-pagan and Arabian-Christian impressions, 
for the antique and the sacred writings, the ruins and mosaics and miniatures, 
the cults and rites and dogmas of these past Cultures reached into the new life 
at all points. And yet, this Valhalla is something beyond all sensible actualities 
floating in remote, dim, Faustian regions. Olympus rests on the homely Greek 
soil, the Paradise of the Fathers is a magic garden somewhere in the Universe, 
but Valhalla is nowhere. Lost in the limitless, it appears with its inharmonious 
gods and heroes the supreme symbol of solitude. Siegfried, Parzeval, Tristan, 
Hamlet, Faust are the loneliest heroes in all the Cultures. Read the wondrous 
awakening of the inner life in Wolfram's Parzeval. The longing for the woods, 
the mysterious compassion, the ineffable sense of forsakenness — it is all 
Faustian and only Faustian. Every one of us knows it. The motive returns 
with all its profundity in the Easter scene of Faust I. 

"A longing pure and not to be described 
drove me to wander over woods and fields, 
and in a mist of hot abundant tears 
I felt a world arise and live for me." 

Of this world-experience neither Apollinian nor Magian man, neither Homer 
nor the Gospels, knows anything whatever. The climax of the poem of Wolf- 
ram, that wondrous Good Friday morning scene when the hero, at odds with 
God and with himself, meets the noble Gawan and resolves to go on pilgrimage 
to Tevrezent, takes us to the heart of the Faustian religion. Here one can feel 
the mystery of the Eucharist which binds the communicant to a mystic com- 
pany, to a Church that alone can give bliss. In the myth of the Holy Grail 
and its Knights one can feel the inward necessity of the German-Northern 
Catholicism. In opposition to the Classical sacrifices offered to individual gods 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 187 

in separate temples, there is here the one never-ending sacrifice repeated everywhere 
and every day. This is the Faustian idea of the 9th-nth Centuries, the Edda 
time, foreshadowed by Anglo-Saxon missionaries like Winfried but only then 
ripened. The Cathedral, with its High Altar enclosing the accomplished 
miracle, is its expression in stone. 1 

The plurality of separate bodies which represents Cosmos for the Classical 
soul, requires a similar pantheon — hence the antique polytheism. The single 
world-volume, be it conceived as cavern or as space, demands the single god of 
Magian or Western Christianity. Athene or Apollo might be represented by a 
statue, but it is and has long been evident to our feeling that the Deity of the 
Reformation and the Counter-Reformation can only be "manifested" in the 
storm of an organ fugue or the solemn progress of cantata and mass. From the 
rich manifold of figures in the Edda and contemporary legends of saints to 
Goethe our myth develops itself in steady opposition to the Classical — in 
the one case a continuous disintegration of the divine that culminated in the 
early Empire in an impossible multitude of deities, in the other a process of 
simplification that led to the Deism of the 18th Century. 

The Magian hierarchy of heaven — angels, saints, persons of the Trinity — 
has grown paler and paler, more and more disembodied, in the sphere of the 
Western pseudomorphosis, 2 supported though it was by the whole weight of 
Church authority, and even the Devil — the great adversary in the Gothic 
world-drama 3 — has disappeared unnoticed from among the possibilities of 
the Faustian world-feeling. Luther could still throw the inkpot at him, but he 
has been passed over in silence by perplexed Protestant theologians long ago. 
For the solitude of the Faustian soul agrees not at all with a duality of world 
powers. God himself is the All. About the end of the 17th Century this reli- 
giousness could no longer be limited to pictorial expression, and instrumental 
music came as its last and only form-language: we may say that the Catholic 
faith is to the Protestant as an altar-piece is to an oratorio. But even the 
Germanic gods and heroes are surrounded by this rebuffing immensity and 
enigmatic gloom. They are steeped in music and in night, for daylight gives 
visual bounds and therefore shapes bodily things. Night eliminates body, day 
soul. Apollo and Athene have no souls. On Olympus rests the eternal light of 
the transparent southern day, and Apollo's hour is high noon, when great Pan 
sleeps. But Valhalla is light-less, and even in the Eddas we can trace that deep 
midnight of Faust's study-broodings, the midnight that is caught by Rem- 
brandt's etchings and absorbs Beethoven's tone colours. No Wotan or Baldur 
or Freya has ' ' Euclidean ' ' form. Of them, as of the Vedic gods of India, it can 
be said that they suffer not "any graven image or any likeness whatsoever"; 
and this impossibility carries an implicit recognition that eternal space, and not 
the corporeal copy — which levels them down, desecrates them, denies them 

1 Sec Vol. II, p. 358 ct seq. a See Vol. II, pp. 241 et seq. * See Vol. II, p. 354. \ 



z88 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

— is the supreme symbol. This is the deep-felt motive that underlies the 
iconoclastic storms in Islam and Byzantium (both, be it noted, of the 7th cen- 
tury), and the closely similar movement in our Protestant North. Was not 
Descartes' s creation of the anti-Euclidean analysis of space an iconoclasm? The 
Classical geometry handles a number-world of day, the function-theory is the 
genuine mathematic of night. 

11 

That which is expressed by the soul of the West in its extraordinary wealth 
of media — words, tones, colours, pictorial perspectives, philosophical sys- 
tems, legends, the spaciousness of Gothic cathedrals and the formulas of func- 
tions — namely its world-feeling, is expressed by the soul of Old Egypt (which 
was remote from all ambitions towards theory and literariness) almost exclu- 
sively by the immediate language of Stone. Instead of spinning word-subtleties 
around its form of extension, its "space" and its "time," instead of forming 
hypotheses and number-systems and dogmas, it set up its huge symbols in the 
landscape of the Nile in all silence. Stone is the great emblem of the Timeless- 
Become; space and death seem bound up in it. "Men have built for the dead," 
says Bachofen in his autobiography, "before they have built for the living, and 
even as a perishable wooden structure suffices for the span of time that is given 
to the living, so the housing of the dead for ever demands the solid stone of the 
earth. The oldest cult is associated with the stone that marks the place of 
burial, the oldest temple-building with the tomb-structure, the origins of art 
and decoration with the grave-ornament. Symbol has created itself in the 
graves. That which is thought and felt and silently prayed at the grave-side 
can be expressed by no word, but only hinted by the boding symbol that stands 
in unchanging grave repose." The dead strive no more. They are no more 
Time, but only Space — something that stays (if indeed it stays at all) but does 
not ripen towards a Future; and hence it is stone, the abiding stone, that ex- 
presses how the dead is mirrored in the waking consciousness of the living. 
The Faustian soul looks for an immortality to follow the bodily end, a sort of 
marriage with endless space, and it disembodies the stone in its Gothic thrust- 
system (contemporary, we may note, with the "consecutives" in Church 
music till at last nothing remained visible but the indwelling depth- and 
height-energy of this self-extension. The Apollinian soul would have its dead 
burned, would see them annihilated, and so it remained averse from stone build- 
ing throughout the early period of its Culture. The Egyptian soul saw itself 
as moving down a narrow and inexorably-prescribed life-path to come at the 
end before the judges of the dead ("Book of the Dead," cap. 1x5). That was 

1 This refers to the diaphonic chant of Church music in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 
The form of this chant is supposed to have been an accompaniment of the " plain chant '* by voices 
moving parallel to it at a fourth, fifth, or octave. — Tr. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 189 

its Destiny-idea. The Egyptian's existence is that of the traveller who follows 
one unchanging direction, and the whole form-language of his Culture is a 
translation into the sensible of this one theme. And as we have taken endless 
space as the prime symbol of the North and body as that of the Classical, so we 
may take the word way as most intelligibly expressing that of the Egyptians. 
Strangely, and for Western thought almost incomprehensibly, the one element 
in extension that they emphasize is that of direction in depth. The tomb- 
temples of the Old Kingdom and especially the mighty pyramid-temples of the 
Fourth Dynasty represent, not a purposed organization of space such as we find 
in the mosque and the cathedral, but a rhythmically ordered sequence of spaces. 
The sacred way leads from the gate-building on the Nile through passages, 
halls, arcaded courts and pillared rooms that grow ever narrower and narrower, 
to the chamber of the dead, 1 and similarly the Sun-temples of the Fifth Dynasty 
are not "buildings" but a path enclosed by mighty masonry. 2 The reliefs and 
the paintings appear always as rows which with an impressive compulsion lead 
the beholder in a definite direction. The ram and sphinx avenues of the New 
Empire have the same object. For the Egyptian, the depth-experience which 
governed his world-form was so emphatically directional that he comprehended 
space more or less as a continuous process of actualization. There is nothing 
rigid about distance as expressed here. The man must move, and so become 
himself a symbol of life, in order to enter into relation with the stone part of the 
symbolism. "Way" signifies both Destiny and third dimension. The grand 
wall-surfaces, reliefs, colonnades past which he moves are "length and 
breadth"; that is, mere perceptions of the senses, and it is the forward-driving 
life that extends them into "world." Thus the Egyptian experienced space, 
we may say, in and by the processional march along its distinct elements, 
whereas the Greek who sacrificed outside the temple did not feel it and the man 
of our Gothic centuries praying in the cathedral let himself be immersed in the 
quiet infinity of it. And consequently the art of these Egyptians must aim at 
-plane effects and nothing else, even when it is making use of solid means. For 
the Egyptian, the pyramid over the king's tomb is a triangle, & huge, powerfully 
expressive plane that, whatever be the direction from which one approaches, 
closes off the "way" and commands the landscape. For him, the columns of 
the inner passages and courts, with their dark backgrounds, their dense array 
and their profusion of adornments, appear entirely as vertical strips which 
rhythmically accompany the march of the priests. Relief-work is — in utter 
contrast to the Classical — carefully restricted in one plane; in the course of 
development dated by the Third to the Fifth dynasties it diminishes from the 
thickness of a finger to that of a sheet of paper, and finally it is sunk in the 

1 Holscher, Grabdenkmal des Konigs Chephren; Borchardt, Grabdenkmal des Sahuri; Curtius, Die 
Antike Kunst, p. 45. 

2 Sec Vol. II, p. 342.; Borchardt, Re-Heiligtum des Newoserri; Ed. Mayer, Geschichte des Altertwns, 
1, 151. 



/ 



icp THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

plane. 1 The dominance of the horizontal, the vertical and the right angle, and 
the avoidance of all foreshortening support the two-dimensional principle and 
serve to insulate this directional depth-experience which coincides with the 
way and the grave at its. end. It is an art that admits of no deviation for the 
relief of the tense soul. 

Is not this an expression in the noblest language that it is possible to con- 
ceive of what all our space-theories would like to put into words? Is it not 
a metaphysic in stone by the side of which the written metaphysics of Kant 
seems but a helpless stammering? 

There is, however, another Culture that, different as it most fundamentally 
is from the Egyptian, yet found a closely-related prime symbol. This is the 
Chinese, with its intensely directional principle of the Tao. 2 But whereas the 
Egyptian treads to the end a way that is prescribed for him with an inexorable 
necessity, the Chinaman wanders through his world; consequently, he is con- 
ducted to his god or his ancestral tomb not by ravines of stone, between faultless 
smooth walls, but by friendly Nature herself. Nowhere else has the landscape 
become so genuinely the material of the architecture. "Here, on religious 
foundations, there has been developed a grand lawfulness and unity common to 
all building, which, combined with the strict maintenance of a north-south 
general axis, always holds together gate-buildings, side-buildings, courts and 
halls in the same homogeneous plan, and has led finally to so grandiose a plan- 
ning and such a command over ground and space that one is quite justified in 
saying that the artist builds and reckons with the landscape itself." 3 The 
temple is not a self-contained building but a lay-out, in which hills, water, 
trees, flowers, and stones in definite forms and dispositions are just as important 
as gates, walls, bridges and houses. This Culture is the only one in which the 
art of gardening is a grand religious art. There are gardens that are reflections 
of particular Buddhist sects. 4 It is the architecture of the landscape, and only 
that, which explains the architecture of the buildings, with their flat extension 
and the emphasis laid on the roof as the really expressive element. And just as 
the devious ways through doors, over bridges, round hills and walls lead at last 
to the end, so the paintings take the beholder from detail to detail whereas 
Egyptian relief masterfully points him in the one set direction. "The whole 

1 "Relief en crcux"; compare H. Schafer, Von Sgyptischer Kunst (1919), I, p. 41. 

* See Vol. II, pp. 350 et seq. 

s O. Fischer, Cbinesiscbe Landmalerei (1911), p. 14. What makes Chinese — as also Indian — 
art so difficult a study for us is the fact that all works of the early periods (namely, those of the 
Hwangho region from 1300 to 800 b.c. and of pre-Buddhist India) have vanished without a trace. 
But that which we now call "Chinese art" corresponds, say, to the art of Egypt from the Twentieth 
Dynasty onward, and the great schools of painting find their parallel in the sculpture schools of the 
Saite and Ptolemaic periods, in which an antiquarian preciosity takes the place of the living inward 
development that is no longer there. Thus from the examples of Egypt we are able to tell how far 
it is permissible to argue backwards to conclusions about the art of Ch6u and Vedic times. 

* C. Glaser, Die Kunst Ostasiens (1910), p. 181. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 191 

picture is not to be taken at once. Sequence in time presupposes a sequence of 
space-elements through which the eye is to wander from one to the next." x 
Whereas the Egyptian architecture dominates the landscape, the Chinese es- 
pouses it. But in both cases it is direction in depth that maintains the becoming 
of space as a continuously-present experience. 

in 

All art is expression-language. 2 Moreover, in its very earliest essays — which 
extend far back into the animal world — it is that of one active existence speak- 
ing for itself only, and it is unconscious of witnesses even though in the absence 
of such the impulse to expression would not come to utterance. Even in quite 
"late" conditions we often see, instead of the combination of artist and specta- 
tor, a crowd of art-makers who all dance or mime or sing. The idea of the 
"Chorus " as sum total of persons present has never entirely vanished from 
art-history. It is only the higher art that becomes decisively an art " before 
witnesses " and especially (as Nietzsche somewhere remarks) before God as the 
supreme witness. 3 

This expression is either ornament or imitation. Both are higher possibilities 
and their polarity to one another is hardly perceptible in the beginnings. Of 
the two, imitation is definitely the earlier and the closer to the producing race. 
Imitation is the outcome of a physiognomic idea of a second person with whom 
(or which) the first is involuntarily induced into* resonance of vital rhythm 
(mitschwingen in Lebenstakte); whereas ornament evidences an ego conscious 
of its own specific character. The former is widely spread in the animal world, 
the latter almost peculiar to man. 

Imitation is born of the secret rhythm of all things cosmic. For the waking 
being the One appears as discrete and extended; there is a Here and a There, a 
Proper and an Alien something, a Microcosm and a Macrocosm that are polar 
to one another in the sense-life, and what the rhythm of imitation does is to 
bridge this dichotomy. Every religion is an effort of the waking soul to reach 
the powers of the world-around. And so too is Imitation, which in its most 
devoted moments is wholly religious, for it consists in an identity of inner 
.activity between the soul and body "here" and the world-around "there" 
which, vibrating as one, become one. As a bird poises itself in the storm or a 
float gives to the swaying waves, so our limbs take up an irresistible beat at the 
sound of march-music. Not less contagious is the imitation of another's bearing 

1 Glaser, op. tit., p. 43. 2 See Vol. II, pp. 135 et seq. 

8 The monologue-art of very lonely natures is also in reality a conversation with self in the 
second person. But it is only in the intellectuality of the megalopolitan stages that the impulse to 
express is overcome by the impulse to communicate (see Vol. II, p. 135) which gives rise to that 
tendencious art that seeks to instruct or convert or prove views of a politico-social or moral character, 
and provokes the antagonistic formula of " Art for Art's sake " — which is itself rather a view than 
a discipline, though it does at least serve to recall the primitive significance of artistic expression. 



192. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

and movements, wherein children in particular excel. It reaches the superla- 
tive when we "let ourselves go " in the common song or parade-march or dance 
that creates out of many units one unit of feeling and expression, a ' € we. * * But 
a " successful* * picture of a man or a landscape is also the outcome of a felt 
harmony of the pictorial motion with the secret swing and sway of the living 
opposite; and it is this actualizing of physiognomic rhythm that requires the 
executant to be an adept who can reveal the idea, the soul, of the alien in the 
play of its surface. In certain unreserved moments we are all adepts of this sort, 
and in such moments, as we follow in an imperceptible rhythm the music and 
the play of facial expression, we suddenly look over the precipice and see great 
secrets. The aim of all imitation is effective simulation; this means effective 
assimilation of ourselves into an alien something — such a transposition and 
transubstantiation that the One lives henceforth in the Other that it describes 
or depicts — and it is able to awaken an intense feeling of unison over all the 
range from silent absorption and acquiescence to the most abandoned laughter 
and down into the last depths of the erotic, a unison which is inseparable from 
creative activity. In this wise arose the popular circling-dances (for instance, 
the Bavarian Schuhplattler was originally imitated from the courtship of the 
woodcocks) but this too is what Vasari means when he praises Cimabue and 
Giotto as the first who returned to the imitation of "Nature" — the Nature, 
that is, of springtime men, of which Meister Eckart said: "God flows out in all 
creatures, and therefore all created is God." That which in this world-around 
presents itself to our contemplation — and therefore contains meaning for our 
feelings — as movement, we render by movement. Hence all imitation is in 
the broadest sense dramatic; drama is presented in the movement of the brush- 
stroke or the chisel, the melodic curve of the song, the tone of the recitation, 
the line of poetry, the description, the dance. But everything that we ex- 
perience with and in seeings and hearings is always an alien soul to which we 
are uniting ourselves. It is only at the stage of the Megalopolis that art, 
reasoned to pieces and de-spiritualized, goes over to naturalism as that term is 
understood nowadays; viz., imitation of the charm of visible appearances, of 
the stock of sensible characters that are capable of being scientifically fixed. 

Ornament detaches itself now from Imitation as something which does not 
follow the stream of life but rigidly faces it. Instead of physiognomic traits 
overheard in the alien being, we have established motives, symbols, which are 
impressed upon it. The intention is no longer to pretend but to conjure. The 
"I" overwhelms the "Thou." Imitation is only a speaking with means that 
are born of the moment and unreproduceable — but Ornament employs sl lan- 
guage emancipated from the speaking, a stock of forms that possesses duration 
and is not at the mercy of the individual. 1 

Only the living can be imitated, and it can be imitated only in movements, 
1 Sec Vol. II, pp. 138 et scq., and Worringcr, Abstrahsion und Einfubrung, pp. 66 ct seq. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 193 

for it is through these that it reveals itself to the senses of artists and spectators. 
To that extent, imitation belongs to Time and Direction. All the dancing and 
drawing and describing and portraying for eye and ear is irrevocably "direc- 
tional," and hence the highest possibilities of Imitation lie in the copying of 
a destiny, be it in tones, verses, picture or stage-scene. 1 Ornament, on the con- 
trary, is something taken away from Time: it is pure extension, settled and 
stable. Whereas an imitation expresses something by accomplishing itself, orna- 
ment can only do so by presenting itself to the senses as a finished thing. It. is 
Being as such, wholly independent of origin. Every imitation possesses begin- 
ning and end, while an ornament possesses only duration, and therefore we 
can only imitate the destiny of an individual (for instance, Antigone or Des- 
demona), while by an ornament or symbol only the generalized destiny-idea 
itself can be represented (as, for example, that of the Classical world by the 
Doric column). And the former presupposes a talent, while the latter calls for 
an acquirable knowledge as well. 

All strict arts have their grammar and syntax of form-language, with rules 
and laws, inward logic and tradition. This is true not merely for the Doric 
cabin-temple and Gothic cottage-cathedral, for the carving-schools of Egypt 2 
and Athens and the cathedral plastic of northern France, for the painting- 
schools of the Classical world and those of Holland and the Rhine and Florence, 
but also for the fixed rules of the Skalds and Minnesanger which were learned 
and practised as a craft (and dealt not merely with sentence and metre but also 
with gesture and the choice of imagery 3 )> for the narration-technique of the 
Vedic, Homeric and Celto-Germanic Epos, for the composition and delivery of 
the Gothic sermon (both vernacular and Latin), and for the orators' prose 4 in 
the Classical, and for the rules of French drama. In the ornamentation of an 
art-work is reflected the inviolable causality of the macrocosm as the man of 
the particular kind sees and comprehends it. Both have system. Each is pene- 
trated with the religious side of life — fear and love. 5 A genuine symbol can 
instil fear or can set free from fear; the ** right" emancipates and the 44 wrong" 
hurts and depresses. The imitative side of the arts, on the contrary, stands 
closer to the real race-feelings of hate and love, out of which arises the opposi- 

1 Imitation, being life, is past in the very moment of accomplishment. The curtain falls, and it 
passes either into oblivion or, if the product is a durable artifact, into art-history. Of the songs and 
dances of old Cultures nothing remains, of their pictures and poems little. And even this little con- 
tains, substantially, only the ornamental side of the original imitation. Of a grand drama there 
remains only the text, not the image and the sound; of a poem only the words, not the recital; and of 
all their music the notes at most, not the tone-colours of the instruments. The essential is irrevocably 
gone, and every "reproduction" is in reality something new and different. 

2 For the workshop of Thothmes at Tell-el-Amarna, see Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-GeselL 
scbaft, No. 52., pp. 2.8 et seq. 

8 K. Burdach, Deutsche Renaissance, p. n. The pictorial art of the Gothic period also has its 
strict typism and symbolism. 

* E. Norden, Antike Kunst-prosa, pp. 8 et seq. 

* See Vol. II, p. 32.3. 



194 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tion of ugly and beautiful. This is in relation only with the living, of which the 
inner rhythm repels us or draws us into phase with it, whether it be that of the 
sunset-cloud or that of the tense breath of the machine. An imitation is beau- 
tiful, an ornament significant, and therein lies the difference between direction 
and extension, organic and inorganic logic, life and death. That which we 
think beautiful is "worth copying." Easily it swings with us and draws us on 
to imitate, to join in the singing, to repeat. Our hearts beat higher, our limbs 
twitch, and we are stirred till our spirits overflow. But as it belongs to Time, 
it "has its time." A symbol endures, but everything beautiful vanishes with 
the life-pulsation of the man, the class, the people or the race that feels it as a 
specific beauty in the general cosmic rhythm. 1 The "beauty" that Classical 
sculpture and poetry contained for Classical eyes is something different from 
the beauty that they contain for ours — something extinguished irrecoverably 
with the Classical soul — while what we regard as beautiful in it is some- 
thing that only exists for us. Not only is that which is beautiful for one kind 
of man neutral or ugly for another — e.g., the whole of our music for the 
Chinese, or Mexican sculpture for us. For one and the same life the accustomed, 
the habitual, owing to the very fact of its possessing duration, cannot possess 
beauty. 

And now for the first time we can see the opposition between these two sides 
of every art in all its depth. Imitation spiritualizes and quickens, ornament 
enchants and kills. The one becomes, the other is. And therefore the one is 
allied to love and, above all — in songs and riot and dance — to the sexual 
love, which turns existence to face the future; and the other to care of the past, 
to recollection 2 and to the funerary. The beautiful is longingly pursued, the 
significant instils dread, and there is no deeper contrast than that between the 
house of the living and the house of the dead. 3 The peasant's cottage 4 and its 
derivative the country noble's hall, the fenced town and the castle are man- 
sions of life, unconscious expressions of circling blood, that no art produced 
and no art can alter. The idea of the family appears in the plan of the proto- 
house, the inner form of the stock in the plan of its villages — which after 
many a century and many a change of occupation still show what race it 
was that founded them 6 — the life of a nation and its social ordering in the 
plan (not the elevation or silhouette) of the city. 6 On the other hand, Orna- 
mentation of the high order develops itself on the stiff symbols of death, 

1 The translation is so far a paraphrase here that it is desirable to reproduce the German original: 
"Alles Schone vergeht mit dem Lebenspulsschlag (dessen) der es aus dem kosmischen Takt heraus 
als solches empfindet." 

8 Hence the ornamental character of script. 

8 See p. 188. « See Vol. II, p. 104. 

6 E.g., the Slavonic round- villages and Teutonic street-villages east of the Elbe. Similarly, 
conclusions can be drawn as to many of the events of the Homeric age from the distribution of round 
and rectangular buildings in ancient Italy. 

6 Sec Vol. H, p. 109. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 193 

the urn, the sarcophagus, the stele and the temple of the dead, 1 and beyond 
these in gods' temples and cathedrals which are Ornament through and through, 
not the expressions of a race but the language of a world-view. They are 
pure art through and through — just what the castle and the cottage are 
not. 2 

For cottage and castle are buildings in which art, and, specifically, imitative 
art, is made and done, the home of Vedic, Homeric and Germanic epos, of the 
songs of heroes, the dance of boors and that of lords and ladies, of the min- 
strel's lay. The cathedral, on the other hand, is 2&X., and, moreover, the only 
art by which nothing is imitated; it alone is pure tension of persistent forms, 
pure three-dimensional logic that expresses itself in edges and surfaces and 
volumes. But the art of villages and castles is derived from the inclina- 
tions of the moment, from the laughter and high spirit of feasts and games, 
and to such a degree is it dependent on Time, so much is it a thing of 
occasion, that the troubadour obtains his very name from finding, while 
Improvisation — as we see in the Tzigane music to-day — is nothing but 
race manifesting itself to alien senses under the influence of the hour. To 
this free creative power all spiritual art opposes the strict school in which 
the individual — in the hymn as in the work of building and carving — is 
the servant of a logic of timeless forms, and so in all Cultures the seat of 
its style-history is in its early cult architecture. In the castle it is the life 
and not the structure that possesses style. In the town the plan is an image 
of the destinies of a people, whereas the silhouette of emergent spires and 
cupolas tells of the logic in the builders* world-picture, of the "first and last 
things ' * of their universe. 

In the architecture of the living, stone serves a worldly -purpose, but in the 
architecture of the cult it is a symbol.* Nothing has injured the history of the 
great architectures so much as the fact that it has been regarded as the history 
of architectural techniques instead of as that of architectural ideas which took 
their technical expression-means as and where they found them. It has been 
just the same with the history of musical instruments, 4 which also were de- 
veloped on a foundation of tone-language. Whether the groin and the flying 
buttress and the squinch-cupola were imagined specially for the great archi- 
tectures or were expedients that lay more or less ready to hand and were taken 
into use, is for art-history a matter of as little importance as the question of 
whether, technically, stringed instruments originated in Arabia or in Celtic 
Britain. It may be that the Doric column was, as a matter of workmanship, 
borrowed from the Egyptian temples of the New Empire, or the late-Roman 
domical construction from the Etruscans, or the Florentine court from the 
North-African Moors. Nevertheless the Doric peripteros, the Pantheon, and 

1 Sec p. 167. 2 Sec Vol. II, pp. 141 ct scq. 

3 See p. 12.8. * Sec p. 61. 



.* _'',$ -3k» 



196 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the Palazzo Farnese belong to wholly different worlds — they subserve the 
artistic expression of the prime-symbol in three different Cultures. 



IV 



In every springtime, consequently, there are two definitely ornamental and 
non-imitative arts, that of building and that of decoration. In the longing and 
pregnant centuries before it, elemental expression belongs exclusively to Orna- 
mentation in the narrow sense. The Carolingian period is represented only by 
its ornament, as its architecture, for want of the Idea, stands between the styles. 
And similarly, as a matter of art-history, it is immaterial that no buildings of 
the Mycensean age have survived. 1 But with the dawn of the great Culture, 
architecture as ornament comes into being suddenly and with such a force of ex- 
pression that for a century mere decoration-as-such shrinks away from it in 
awe. The spaces, surfaces and edges of stone speak alone. The tomb of Cheph- 
ren is the culmination of mathematical simplicity — everywhere right angles, 
squares and rectangular pillars, nowhere adornment, inscription or desinence 
— and it is only after some generations have passed that Relief ventures to in- 
fringe the solemn magic of those spaces and the strain begins to be eased. And 
the noble Romanesque of Westphalia-Saxony (Hildesheim, Gernrode, Paulin- 
zella, Paderborn), of Southern France and of the Normans (Norwich and 
Peterborough) managed to render the whole sense of the world with indescrib- 
able power and dignity in one line, one capital, one arch. 

When the form-world of the springtime is at its highest, and not before, the 
ordained relation is that architecture is lord and ornament is vassal. And the 
word "ornament" is to be taken here in the widest possible sense. Even con- 
ventionally, it covers the Classical »»/>-motive with its quiet poised symmetry 
or meander supplement, the spun surface of arabesque and the not dissimilar sur- 
face-patterning of Mayan art, and the "Thunder-pattern" 2 and others of the 
early Ch6u period which prove once again the landscape basis of the old 
Chinese architecture without a doubt. But the warrior figures of Dipylon vases 
are also conceived in the spirit of ornament, and so, in a far higher degree still, 
are the statuary groups of Gothic cathedrals. "The figures were composed pillar- 
wise from the spectator, the figures of the pillar being, with reference to the spec- 
tator, ranked upon one another like rhythmic figures in a symphony that soars 
heavenward and expands its sounds in every direction." 3 And besides draper- 
ies, gestures, and figure-types, even the structure of the hymn-strophe and the 
parallel motion of the parts in church music are ornament in the service of the 

1 The same applies to the architecture of Thinite Egypt and to the Seleucid-Persian sun and fire 
temples of the pre-Christian area. 

2 The combination of scrolls and "Greek keys" with the Dragon or other emblem of storm- 
power. — Tr. 

8 Dvorak, Idcalismus und Naturalismus in dvr got. Skulptur u. Malcrci (Hist. Zeitscbrift, 1918, 
pp. 44 et seq.). 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL i 57 

all-ruling architectural idea. 1 The spell of the great Ornamentation remains 
unbroken till in the beginning of a "late" period architecture falls into a group 
of civic and worldly special arts that unceasingly devote themselves to pleasing 
and clever imitation and become ipso facto personal. To Imitation and Orna- 
ment the same applies that has been said already of time and space. Time gives 
birth to space, but space gives death to time. 2 In the beginning, rigid symbol- 
ism had petrified everything alive; the Gothic statue was not permitted to be a 
living body, but was simply a set of lines disposed in human form. But now 
Ornament loses all its sacred rigour and becomes more and more decoration 
for the architectural setting of a polite and mannered life. It was purely as this, 
namely as a beautifying element, that Renaissance taste was adopted by the 
courtly and patrician world of the North (and by it alone!). Ornament meant 
something quite different in the Egyptian Old Kingdom from what it meant in 
the Middle; in the geometric period from what it meant in the Hellenistic; at 
the end of the iith Century from what it meant at the end of Louis XIV's reign. 
And architecture too becomes pictorial and makes music, and its forms seem 
always to be trying to imitate something in the picture of the world-around. 
From the Ionic capital we proceed to the Corinthian, and from Vignola through 
Bernini to the Rococo. 

At the last, when Civilization sets in, true ornament and, with it, great art 
as a whole are extinguished. The transition consists — in every Culture — in 
Classicism and Romanticism of one sort or another, the former being a senti- 
mental regard for an Ornamentation (rules, laws, types) that has long been 
archaic and soulless, and the latter a sentimental Imitation, not of life, but of an 
older Imitation. In the place of architectural style we find architectural taste. 
Methods of painting and mannerisms of writing, old forms and new, home and 
foreign, come and go with the fashion. The inward necessity is no longer there, 
there are no longer 44 schools," for everyone selects what and where it pleases 
him to select. Art becomes craft-art (Kunstgewerbe) in all its branches — architec- 
ture and music, poetry and drama — and in the end we have a pictorial and 
literary stock-in-trade which is destitute of any deeper significance and is em- 
ployed according to taste. This final or industrial form of Ornament — no 
longer historical, no longer in the condition of "becoming" — we have before 
us not only in the patterns of oriental carpets, Persian and Indian metal work, 

And, finally, ornament in the highest sense includes script, and with it, the Book, which is the 
true associate of the cult-building, and as an art-work always appears and disappears with it. (See 
Vol. II, pp. 182. et seq., pp. 198 et seq.) In writing, it is understanding as distinct from intuition 
that attains to form: it is not essences that those signs symbolize but notions abstracted therefrom 
by words, and as for the speech-habituated human intellect rigid space is the presented objective, 
the writing of a Culture is (after its stone-building) the purest of all expressions of its prime-symbol. 
It is quite impossible to understand the history of Arabesque if we leave the innumerable Arabian 
scripts out of consideration, and it is no less impossible to separate Egyptian and Chinese style- 
history from the history of the corresponding writing-signs and their arrangement and application. 
8 See p. 173. 



198 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Chinese porcelain, but also in Egyptian (and Babylonian) art as the Greeks and 
Romans met it. The Minoan art of Crete is pure craft-art, a northern outlier of 
Egyptian post-Hyksos taste; and its "contemporary," Hellenistic-Roman art 
from about the time of Scipio and Hannibal, similarly subserves the habit of 
comfort and the play of intellect. From the richly-decorated entablature of the 
Forum of Nerva in Rome to the later provincial ceramics in the West, we can 
trace the same steady formation of an unalterable craft-art that we find in the 
Egyptian and the Islamic worlds, and that we have to presume in India after 
Buddha and in China after Confucius. 



Now, Cathedral and Pyramid-temple are different in spite of their deep in- 
ward kinship, and it is precisely in these differences that we seize the mighty 
phenomenon of the Faustian soul, whose depth-impulse refuses to be bound in 
the prime symbol of a way, and from its earliest beginnings strives to transcend 
every optical limitation. Can anything be more alien to the Egyptian concep- 
tion of the State — whose tendency we may describe as a noble sobriety — 
than the political ambitions of the great Saxon, Franconian and Hohenstaufen 
Emperors, who came to grief because they overleapt all political actualities and 
for whom the recognition of any bounds would have been a betrayal of the idea 
of their rulership? Here the prime symbol of infinite space, with all its in- 
describable power, entered the field of active political existence. Beside the 
figures of the Ottos, Conrad II, Henry VI and Frederick II stand the Viking- 
Normans, conquerors of Russia, Greenland, England, Sicily and almost of 
Constantinople; and the great popes, Gregory VII and Innocent III — all of 
whom alike aimed at making their visible spheres of influence coincident with 
the whole known world. This is what distinguishes the heroes of the Grail and 
Arthurian and Siegfried sagas, ever roaming in the infinite, from the heroes of 
Homer with their geographically modest horizon; and the Crusades, that took 
men from the Elbe and the Loire to the limits of the known world, from the 
historical events upon which the Classical soul built the "Iliad" and which 
from the style of that soul we may safely assume to have been local, bounded, 
and completely appreciable. 

The Doric soul actualized the symbol of the corporally-present individual 
thing, while deliberately rejecting all big and far-reaching creations, and it is 
for this very good reason that the first post-Mycenaean period has bequeathed 
nothing to our archaeologists. The expression to which this soul finally attained 
was the Doric temple with its purely outward effectiveness, set upon the land- 
scape as a massive image but denying and artistically disregarding the space 
within as the jtw> &S t l lat which was held to be incapable of existence. The 
ranked columns of the Egyptians carried the roof of a hall. The Greek in bor- 
rowing the motive invested it with a meaning proper to himself — he turned 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 199 

the architectural type inside out like a glove. The outer column-sets are, in a 
sense, relics of a denied interior. 1 

The Magian and the Faustian souls, on the contrary, built high. Their 
dream-images became concrete as vaultings above significant inner-spaces, 
structural anticipations respectively of the mathematic of algebra and that of 
analysis. In the style that radiated from Burgundy and Flanders rib-vaulting 
with its lunettes and flying buttresses emancipated the contained space from the 
sense-appreciable surface 2 bounding it. In the Magian interior "the window is 
merely a negative component, a utility-form in no wise yet developed into an 
art-form — to put it crudely, nothing but a hole in the wall. ' ' 3 When windows 
were in practice indispensable, they were for the sake of artistic impression 
concealed by galleries as in the Eastern basilica. 4 The window as architecture, on 
the other hand, is peculiar to the Faustian soul and the most significant symbol 
of its depth-experience. In it can be felt the will to emerge from the interior 
into the boundless. The same will that is immanent in contrapuntal music was 
native to these vaultings. The incorporeal world of this music was and re- 
mained that of the first Gothic, and even when, much later, polyphonic music 
rose to such heights as those of the Matthew Passion, the Eroica, and Tristan 
and Parsifal, it became of inward necessity cathedral-like and returned to its 
home, the stone language of the Crusade-time. To get rid of every trace of 
Classical corporeality, there was brought to bear the full force of a deeply 
significant Ornamentation, which defies the delimiting power of stone with its 
weirdly impressive transformations of vegetal, animal and human bodies (St. 
Pierre in Moissac), which dissolves all its lines into melodies and variations on 
a theme, all its fagades into many-voiced fugues, and all the bodiliness of its 
statuary into a music of drapery-folds. It is this spirituality that gave their 
deep meaning to the gigantic glass-expanses of our cathedral-windows with 
their polychrome, translucent and therefore wholly bodiless, painting — an art that 
has never and nowhere repeated itself and forms the completest contrast that 
can be imagined to the Classical fresco. It is perhaps in the Sainte-Chapelle at 
Paris that this emancipation from bodiliness is most evident. Here the stone 
practically vanishes in the gleam of the glass. Whereas the fresco-painting is 
co-material with the wall on and with which it has grown and its colour is 
effective as material, here we have colours dependent on no carrying surface 

1 Certainly the Greeks at the time when they advanced from the Antse to the Peripteros were 
under the mighty influence of the Egyptian jrr/tt-columns — it was at this time that their sculpture 
in the round, indisputably following Egyptian models, freed itself from the relief manner which 
still clings to the Apollo figures. But this does not alter the fact that the motive of the Classical 
column and the Classical application of the rank-principle were wholly and peculiarly Classical. 

2 The surface of the space-volume itself, not that of the stone. Dvorak, Hist. Ztscbr., 1918, 
pp. 17 et seq. 

8 Dehio, Gescb. der deutschen Kunst, I, p. 16. 

4 For descriptions and illustrations of types of Doming and Vaulting, see the article Vault in 
Ency. Brit., XI Ed. — Tr. 



ioo THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

but as free in space as organ notes, and shapes poised in the infinite. Compare 
with the Faustian spirit of these churches — almost wall-less, loftily vaulted, 
irradiated with many-coloured light, aspiring from nave to choir — the Ara- 
bian (that is, the Early-Christian Byzantine) cupola-church. The pendentive 
cupola, that seems to float on high above the basilica or the octagon, was 
indeed also a victory over the principle of natural gravity which the Classical 
expressed in architrave and column; it, too, was a defiance of architectural body, 
of "exterior." But the very absence of an exterior emphasizes the more the 
unbroken coherence of the wall that shuts in the Cavern and allows no look and 
no hope to emerge from it. An ingeniously confusing interpenetration of 
spherical and polygonal forms; a load so placed upon a stone drum that it 
seems to hover weightless on high, yet closing the interior without outlet; all 
structural lines concealed; vague light admitted, through a small opening in 
the heart of the dome but only the more inexorably to emphasize the walling-in 
— such are the characters that we see in the masterpieces of this art, S. Vitale 
in Ravenna, Hagia S Sophia in Constantinople, and the Dome of the Rock l in 
Jerusalem. Where the Egyptian puts reliefs that with their flat planes studi- 
ously avoid any foreshortening suggestive of lateral depth, where the Gothic 
architects put their pictures of glass to draw in the world of space without, 
the Magian clothes his walls with sparkling, predominantly golden, mosaics 
and arabesques and so drowns his cavern in that unreal, fairy-tale light which 
for Northerners is always so seductive in Moorish art. 

VI 

The phenomenon of the great style, then, is an emanation from the essence 
of the Macrocosm, from the prime-symbol of a great culture. No one who can 
appreciate the connotation of the word sufficiently to see that it designates not 
a form-aggregate but a form-history, will try to aline the fragmentary and 
chaotic art-utterances of primitive mankind with the comprehensive certainty 
of a style that consistently develops over centuries. Only the art of great 
Cultures, the art that has ceased to be only art and has begun to be an effective 
unit of expression and significance, possesses style. 

The organic history of a style comprises a "pre — ," a "non — " and a 
"post — ." The bull tablet of the First Dynasty of Egypt 2 is not yet "Egyp- 
tian. ' * Not till the Third Dynasty do the works acquire a style — but then they 
do so suddenly and very definitely. Similarly the Carolingian period stands 
" between-styles." We see different forms touched on and explored, but nothing 
of inwardly necessary expression. The creator of the Aachen Minster "thinks 

1 "Mosque of Omar." — Tr. 

2 H. Schafer, Von Aegypischer Kunst, I, pp. 15 et seq. 

(The bulls are shown in Fig. 18 in the article Egypt in the Encyclopxdia Britannica, XI Edition, 
Vol. IX, pp. 65-66. — Tr) 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 101 

surely and builds surely, but does not feel surely." l The Marienkirche in the 
Castle of Wurzburg (c. 700) has its counterpart in Salonika (St. George), and 
the Church of St. Germigny des Pr£s (c. 800) with its cupolas and horseshoe 
niches is almost a mosque. For the whole of West Europe the period 850-950 
is almost a blank. And just so to-day Russian art stands between two styles. 
The primitive wooden architecture with its steep eight-sided tent-roof (which 
extends from Norway to Manchuria) is impressed with Byzantine motives from 
over the Danube and Armenian-Persian from over the Caucasus. We can cer- 
tainly feel an "elective affinity" between the Russian and the Magian souls* 
but as yet the prime symbol of Russia, the plane without limit, 2 finds no sure 
expression either in religion or in architecture. The church roof emerges, hill- 
ockwise, but little from the landscape and on it sit the tent-roofs whose points 
are coifed with the " kokoshniks ' ' that suppress and would abolish the upward 
tendency. They neither tower up like the Gothic belfry nor enclose like the 
mosque-cupola, but sit, thereby emphasizing the horizontality of the building, 
which is meant to be regarded merely from the outside. When about 1760 the 
Synod forbade the tent roofs and prescribed the orthodox onion-cupolas, the 
heavy cupolas were set upon slender cylinders, of which there may be any 
number 8 and which sit on the roof-plane. 4 It is not yet a style, only the 
promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens. 

In the Faustian West, this awakening happened shortly before a.d. 1000. 
In one moment, the Romanesque style was there. Instead of the fluid organiza- 
tion of space on an insecure ground plan, there was, suddenly, a strict dynamic 
of space. From the very beginning, inner and outer construction were placed in 
a fixed relation, the wall was penetrated by the form-language and the form 
worked into the wall in a way that no other Culture has ever imagined. From 
the very beginning the window and the belfry were invested with their mean- 
ings. The form was irrevocably assigned. Only its development remained to 
be worked out. 

The Egyptian style began with another such creative act, just as unconscious, 
just as full of symbolic force. The prime symbol of the Way came into being 
suddenly with the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty (2.930 b.c). The world- 
creating depth-experience of this soul gets its substance from the direction- 
factor itself. Spatial depth as stiffened Time, distance, death, Destiny itself 

x Frankl, Baukunst des Mittelalters (1918), pp. 16 et seq. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 362. et seq. The lack of any vertical tendency in the Russian life-feeling is 
perceptible also in the saga-figure of Ilya Muromet2 (see Vol. II, p. 131). The Russian has not the 
smallest relation with a Father-Go^. His ethos is not a filial but purely a. fraternal love, radiating in 
all directions along the human plane. Christ, even, is conceived as a Brother. The Faustian, wholly 
vertical, tendency to strive up to fulfilment is to the real Russian an incomprehensible pretension. 
The same absence of all vertical tendency is observable in Russian ideas of the state and property. 

8 The cemetery church of Kishi has 21. 

4 J. Grabar, " History of Russian Art " (Russian, 131 1), I— III. Eliasberg, Rusj. Baukunst (1912.), 
Introduction, 



zoz THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

dominate the expression, and the merely sensuous dimensions of length and 
breadth become an escorting plane which restricts and prescribes the Way of 
destiny. The Egyptian flat-relief, which is designed to be seen at close quarters 
and arranged serially so as to compel the beholder to pass along the wall-planes 
in the prescribed direction, appears with similar suddenness about the begin- 
ning of the Fifth Dynasty. 1 The still later avenues of sphinxes and statues and 
the rock- and terrace-temples constantly intensify that tendency towards the 
one distance that the world of Egyptian mankind knows, the grave. Observe 
how soon the colonnades of the early period come to be systems of huge, 
close-set pillars that screen off all side-view. This is something that has never 
reproduced itself in any other architecture. 

The grandeur of this style appears to us as rigid and unchanging. And cer- 
tainly it stands beyond the passion which is ever seeking and fearing and so 
imparts to subordinate characters a quality of restless personal movement in the 
flow of the centuries. But, vice versa, we cannot doubt that to an Egyptian the 
Faustian style (which is our style, from earliest Romanesque to Rococo and 
Empire) would with its unresting persistent search for a Something, appear far 
more uniform than we can imagine. It follows, we must not forget, from the 
conception of style that we are working on here, that Romanesque, Gothic, 
Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo are only stages of one and the same style, in 
which it is naturally the variable that we and the constant that men of other 
eyes remark. In actual fact, the inner unity of the Northern Renaissance is 
shown in innumerable reconstructions of Romanesque work in Baroque and of 
late Gothic work in Rococo that are not in the least startling. In peasant art, 
Gothic and Baroque have been identical, and the streets of old towns with their 
pure harmony of all sorts of gables and fagades (wherein definite attributions 
to Romanesque or Gothic Renaissance or Baroque or Rococo are often quite 
impossible) show that the family resemblance between the members is far 
greater than they themselves realize. 

The Egyptian style was purely architectural, and remained so till the Egyp- 
tian soul was extinguished. It is the only one in which Ornamentation as a 
decorative supplement to architecture is entirely absent. It allowed of no diver- 
gence into arts of entertainment, no display-painting, no busts, no secular 
music. In the Ionic phase, the centre of gravity of the Classical style shifted 
from architecture to an independent plastic art; in that of the Baroque the style 
of the West passed into music, whose form-language in its turn ruled the entire 
building art of the 18th Century; in the Arabian world, after Justinian and 

1 The disposition of Egyptian and that of Western history are so clear as to admit of comparison 
being carried right down into the details, and it would be well worth the expert's while to carry out 
such an investigation. The Fourth Dynasty, that of the strict Pyramid style, b.c. 2.930-2.750 (Cheops, 
Chephren), corresponds to the Romanesque (980-1100), the Fifth Dynasty (2.750-2.62.5, Sahu-r£) 
«o the early Gothic (1 100-12.30), and the Sixth Dynasty, prime of the archaic portraiture (2.62.5- 
2475, Phiops I and II), to the mature Gothic of 1130-1400. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 103 

Chosroes-Nushirvan, Arabesque dissolved all the forms of architecture, paint- 
ing and sculpture into style-impressions that nowadays we should consider as 
craft-art. But in Egypt the sovereignty of architecture remained unchallenged; 
it merely softened its language a little. In the chambers of the pyramid-temple 
of the Fourth Dynasty (Pyramid of Chephren) there are unadorned angular 
pillars. In the buildings of the Fifth (Pyramid of Sahu-rS) the plant-column 
makes its appearance. Lotus and papyrus branches turned into stone arise 
gigantic out of a pavement of transparent alabaster that represents water, 
enclosed by purple walls. The ceiling is adorned with birds and stars. The 
sacred way from the gate-buildings to the tomb-chamber, the picture of life, is 
a stream — it is the Nile itself become one with the prime-symbol of direc- 
tion. The spirit of the mother-landscape unites with the soul that has sprung 
from it. 

In China, in lieu of the awe-inspiring pylon with its massy wall and narrow 
entrance, we have the "Spirit-wall" (yin-pi) that conceals the way in. The 
Chinaman slips into life and thereafter follows the Tao of life's path; as the 
Nile valley is to the up-and-down landscape of the Hwang Ho, so is the stone- 
enclosed temple-way to the mazy paths of Chinese garden-architecture. And 
just so, in some mysterious fashion, the Euclidean existence is linked with the 
multitude of little islands and promontories of the iEgean, and the passion- 
ate Western, roving in the infinite, with the broad plains of Franconia and 
Burgundy and Saxony. 

VII 

The Egyptian style is the expression of a brave soul. The rigour and force of 
it Egyptian man himself never felt and never asserted. He dared all, but said 
nothing. In Gothic and Baroque, on the contrary, the triumph over heaviness 
became a perfectly conscious motive of the form-language. The drama of 
Shakespeare deals openly with the desperate conflict of will and world. Classi- 
cal man, again, was weak in the face of the "powers." The K&dap<ris of fear 
and pity, the relief and recovery of the Apollinian soul in the moment of the 
irepiirkTeia was, according to Aristotle, the effect deliberately aimed at in 
Attic tragedy. As the Greek spectator watched someone whom he knew (for every- 
one knew the myth and its heroes and lived in them) senselessly maltreated by 
fortune, without any conceivable possibility of resistance to the Powers, and 
saw him go under with splendid mien, defiant, heroic, his own Euclidean soul 
experienced a marvellous uplifting. If life was worthless, at any rate the grand 
gesture in losing it was not so. The Greek willed nothing and dared nothing, 
but he found a stirring beauty in enduring. Even the earlier figures of Odysseus 
the patient, and, above all, Achilles the archetype of Greek manhood, have 
this characteristic quality. The morale of the Cynics, that of the Stoics, that 
of Epicurus, the common Greek ideals of aca^pocrbvn and drapaf (a, Diogenes 



io4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

devoting himself to BewpLa in a tub — all this is masked cowardice in the face 
of grave matters and responsibilities, and different indeed from the pride of the 
Egyptian soul. Apollinian man goes below ground out of life's way, even to 
the point of suicide, which in this Culture alone (if we ignore certain related In- 
dian ideals) ranked as a high ethical act and was treated with the solemnity of 
a ritual symbol. 1 The Dionysiac intoxication seems a sort of furious drowning 
of uneasinesses that to the Egyptian soul were utterly unknown. And con- 
sequently the Greek Culture is that of the small, the easy, the simple. Its 
technique is, compared with Egyptian or Babylonian, a clever nullity. 2 No 
ornamentation shows such a poverty of invention as theirs, and their stock of 
sculptural positions and attitudes could be counted on one's fingers. "In its 
poverty of forms, which is conspicuous even allowing that at the beginning of 
its development it may have been better off than it was later, the Doric style 
pivoted everything on proportions and on measure/ * 3 Yet, even so, what 
adroitness in avoiding! The Greek architecture with its commensuration of 
load and support and its peculiar smallness of scale suggests a persistent 
evasion of difficult architectural problems that on the Nile and, later, in the 
high North were literally looked for, which moreover were known and cer- 
tainly not burked in the Mycenaean age. The Egyptian loved the strong 
stone of immense buildings; it was in keeping with his self-consciousness that 
he should choose only the hardest for his task. But the Greek avoided it; his 
architecture first set itself small tasks, then ceased altogether. If we survey it 
as a whole, and then compare it with the totality of Egyptian or Mexican 
or even, for that matter, Western architecture, we are astounded at the feeble 
development of the style. A few variations of the Doric temple and it was 
exhausted. It was already closed off about 400 when the Corinthian capital 
was invented, and everything subsequent to this was merely modification of 
what existed. 

The result of this was an almost bodily standardization of form-types and 
style-species. One might choose between them, but never overstep their strict 
limits — that would have been in some sort an admission of an infinity of 
possibilities. There were three orders of columns and a definite disposition of 
the architrave corresponding to each; to deal with the difficulty (considered, 
as early as Vitruvius, as a conflict) which the alternation of triglyphs and 
metopes produced at the corners, the nearest intercolumniations were narrowed 
— no one thought of imagining new forms to suit the case. If greater dimen- 
sions were desired, the requirements were met by superposition, juxtaposition, 
etc., of additional elements. Thus the Colosseum possesses three rings, the 
Didymseum of Miletus three rows of columns in front, and the Frieze of the 

1 That which differentiates the Japanese harakiri from this suicide is its intensely purposeful 
and (so to put it) active and demonstrative character. — TV. 2 See Vol. II, p. 616. 

8 Koldewey-Puchstein, Die griecb. Tempi in Unter-ltalien und Sifilien, I, p. 12.8. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 105 

Giants of Pergamum an endless succession of individual and unconnected 
motives. Similarly with the style-species of prose and the types of lyric poetry, 
narrative and tragedy. Universally, the expenditure of powers on the basic 
form is restricted to the minimum and the creative energy of the artist directed 
to detail-fineness. It is a statical treatment of static genera, and it stands in 
the sharpest possible contrast to the dynamic fertility of the Faustian with 
its ceaseless creation of new types and domains of form. 

VIII 

We are now able to see the organism in a great style-course. Here, as in 
so many other matters, Goethe was the first to whom vision came. In his 
"Winckelmann" he says of Velleius Paterculus: "with his standpoint, it was 
not given to him to see all art as a living thing Q* &ov) that must have an incon- 
spicuous beginning, a slow growth, a brilliant moment of fulfilment and a 
gradual decline like every other organic being, though it is presented in a set 
of individuals." This sentence contains the entire morphology of art-history. 
Styles do not follow one another like waves or pulse-beats. It is not the per- 
sonality or will or brain of the artist that makes the style, but the style that 
makes the type of the artist. The style, like the Culture, is a prime phenomenon 
in the strictest Goethian sense, be it the style of art or religion or thought, or 
the style of life itself. It is, as "Nature" is, an ever-new experience of waking 
man, his alter ego and mirror-image in the world-around. And therefore in 
the general historical picture of a Culture there can be but one style, the style 
of the Culture. The error has lain in treating mere style-phases — Romanesque, 
Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Empire — as if they were styles on the same level 
as units of quite another order such as the Egyptian, the Chinese (or even a 
' * prehistoric * ') style. Gothic and Baroque are simply the youth and age of one 
and the same vessel of forms, the style of the West as ripening and ripened. 
What has been wanting in our art-research has been detachment, freedom from 
prepossessions, and the will to abstract. Saving ourselves trouble, we have 
classed any and every form-domain that makes a strong impression upon us as 
a "style," and it need hardly be said that our insight has been led astray still 
further by the Ancient-Mediseval-Modern scheme. But in reality, even a 
masterpiece of strictest Renaissance like the court of the Palazzo Farnese is 
infinitely nearer to the arcade-porch of St. Patroclus in Soest, the interior of 
the Magdeburg cathedral, and the staircases of South-German castles of the 
18th Century than it is to the Temple of Pactum or to the Erechtheum. The 
same relation exists between Doric and Ionic, and hence Ionic columns can be as 
completely combined with Doric building forms as late Gothic is with early 
Baroque in St. Lorenz at Niirnberg, or late Romanesque with late Baroque 
in the beautiful upper part of the West choir at Mainz. And our eyes have 
scarcely yet learned to distinguish within the Egyptian style the Old King- 



zo6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

dom and Middle Empire elements corresponding to Doric and Gothic youth 
and to Ionic and Baroque maturity, because from the Twelfth Dynasty these 
elements interpenetrate in all harmony in the form-language of all the greater 
works. 

The task before art-history is to write the comparative biographies of the great 
styles, all of which as organisms of the same genus possess structurally cognate 
life histories. 

In the beginning there is the timid, despondent, naked expression of a 
newly-awakened soul which is still seeking for a relation between itself and 
the world that, though its proper creation, yet is presented as alien and un- 
friendly. There is the child's fearfulness in Bishop Bernward's building at 
Hildesheim, in the Early-Christian catacomb-painting, and in the pillar-halls 
of the Egyptian Fourth Dynasty. A February of art, a deep presentiment of 
a coming wealth of forms, an immense suppressed tension, lies over the land- 
scape that, still wholly rustic, is adorning itself with the first strongholds and 
townlets. Then follows the joyous mounting into the high Gothic, into the 
Constantinian age with its pillared basilicas and its domical churches, into the 
relief-ornament of the Fifth-Dynasty temple. Being is understood, a sacred 
form-language has been completely mastered and radiates its glory, and the 
Style ripens into a majestic symbolism of directional depth and of Destiny. 
But fervent youth comes to an end, and contradictions arise within the soul 
itself. The Renaissance, the Dionysiac-musical hostility to Apollinian Doric, 
the Byzantine of 450 that looks to Alexandria and away from the overjoyed 
art of Antioch, indicate a moment of resistance, of effective or ineffective 
impulse to destroy what has been acquired. It is very difficult to elucidate 
this moment, and an attempt to do so would be out of place here. 

And now it is the manhood of the style-history that comes on. The Culture 
is changing into the intellectuality of the great cities that will now dominate 
the country-side, and pari passu the style is becoming intellectualized also. 
The grand symbolism withers; the riot of superhuman forms dies down; milder 
and more worldly arts drive out the great art of developed stone. Even in 
Egypt sculpture and fresco are emboldened to lighter movement. The artist 
appears, and f f plans ' ' what formerly grew out of the soil. Once more existence 
becomes self-conscious and now, detached from the land and the dream and the 
mystery, stands questioning, and wrestles for an expression of its new duty — 
as at the beginning of Baroque when Michelangelo, in wild discontent and 
kicking against the limitations of his art, piles up the dome of St. Peter's — in 
the age of Justinian I which built Hagia Sophia and the mosaic-decked domed 
basilicas of Ravenna — at the beginning of that Twelfth Dynasty in Egypt 
which the Greeks condensed under the name of Sesostris — and at the decisive 
epoch in Hellas (c. 600) whose architecture probably, nay certainly, expressed 
that which is echoed for us in its grandchild iEschylus. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 2.07 

Then comes the gleaming autumn of the style. Once more the soul depicts 
its happiness, this time conscious of self-completion. The "return to Nature" 
which already thinkers and poets — Rousseau, Gorgias and their "contempo- 
raries * * in the other Cultures — begin to feel and to proclaim, reveals itself in 
the form-world of the arts as a sensitive longing and -presentiment of the end. A 
perfectly clear intellect, joyous urbanity, the sorrow of a parting — these are 
the colours of these last Culture-decades of which Talleyrand was to remark 
later: "Qui n'a pas vecu avant 1789 ne connalt pas la douceur de vivre." So it 
was, too, with the free, sunny and superfine art of Egypt under Sesostris III 
(c. 1850 b.c.) and the brief moments of satiated happiness that produced 
the varied splendour of Pericles's Acropolis and the works of Zeuxis and 
Phidias. A thousand years later again, in the age of the Ommaiyads, we 
meet it in the glad fairyland of Moorish architecture with its fragile col- 
umns and horseshoe arches that seem to melt into air in an iridescence of 
arabesques and stalactites. A thousand years more, and we see it in the 
music of Haydn and Mozart, in Dresden shepherdesses, in the pictures of Wat- 
teau and Guardi, and the works of German master-builders at Dresden, 
Potsdam, Wurzburg and Vienna. 

Then the style fades out. The form-language of the Erechtheum and 
the Dresden Zwinger, honeycombed with intellect, fragile, ready for self- 
destruction, is followed by the flat and senile Classicism that we find in the 
Hellenistic megalopolis, the Byzantium of 900 and the "Empire" modes of the 
North. The end is a sunset reflected in forms revived for a moment by pedant 
or by eclectic — semi-earnestness and doubtful genuineness dominate the world 
of the arts. We to-day are in this condition — playing a tedious game with 
dead forms to keep up the illusion of a living art. 



IX 



No one has yet perceived that Arabian art is a single phenomenon. It is an 
idea that can only take shape when we have ceased to be deceived by the crust 
which overlaid the young East with post-Classical art-exercises that, whether 
they were imitation-antique or chose their elements from proper or alien sources 
at will, were in any case long past all inward life; when we have discovered 
that Early Christian art, together with every really living element in "late- 
Roman," is in fact the springtime of the Arabian style; and when we see the 
epoch of Justinian I as exactly on a par with the Spanish- Venetian Baroque that 
ruled Europe in the great days of Charles V or Philip II, and the palaces of 
Byzantium and their magnificent battle-pictures and pageant-scenes — the van- 
ished glories that inspired the pens of courtly literati like Procopius — on a par 
with the palaces of early Baroque in Madrid, Vienna and Rome and the great 
decorative-painting of Rubens and Tintoretto. This Arabian style embraces 
the entire first millennium of our era. It thus stands at a critical position in 



10 8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the picture of a general history of "Art," and its organic connectedness has 
been imperceptible under the erroneous conventions thereof. 1 

Strange and — if these studies have given us the eye for things latent — 
moving it is to see how this young Soul, held in bondage to the intellect of the 
Classical and, above all, to the political omnipotence of Rome, dares not rouse 
itself into freedom but humbly subjects itself to obsolete value-forms and tries 
to be content with Greek language, Greek ideas and Greek art-elements. De- 
vout acceptance of the powers of the strong day is present in every young 
Culture and is the sign of its youth — witness the humility of Gothic man in 
his pious high-arched spaces with their pillar-statuary and their light-filled 
pictures in glass, the high tension of the Egyptian soul in the midst of its 
world of pyramids, lotus-columns and relief-lined halls. But in this instance 
there is the additional element of an intellectual prostration before forms really 
dead but supposedly eternal. Yet in spite of all, the taking-over and continu- 
ance of these forms came to nothing. Involuntarily, unobserved, not supported 
by an inherent pride as Gothic was, but felt, there in Roman Syria, almost as 
a lamentable come-down, a whole new form-world grew up. Under a mask of 
Grseco-Roman conventions, it filled even Rome itself. The master-masons of 
the Pantheon and the Imperial Fora were Syrians. In no other example is the 
primitive force of a young soul so manifest as here, where it has to make its 
own world by sheer conquest. 

In this as in every other Culture, Spring seeks to express its spirituality in 
a new ornamentation and, above all, in religious architecture as the sublime 
form of that ornamentation. But of all this rich form-world the only part 
that (till recently) has been taken into account has been the Western edge of it, 
which consequently has been assumed to be the true home and habitat of Magian 
style-history. In reality, in matters of style as in those of religion, science 
and social-political life, what we find there is only an irradiation from outside 
the Eastern border of the Empire. 2 Riegl 8 and Strzygowski 4 have discovered 
this, but if we are to go further and arrive at a conspectus of the development 
of Arabian art we have to shed many philological and religious prepossessions. 
The misfortune is that our art-research, although it no longer recognizes the 
religious frontiers, nevertheless unconsciously assumes them. For there is in 
reality no such thing as a Late-Classical nor an Early-Christian nor yet an 
Islamic art in the sense of an art proper to each of those faiths and evolved by 
the community of believers as such. On the contrary, the totality of these 
religions — from Armenia to Southern Arabia and Axum, and from Persia to 
Byzantium and Alexandria — possess a broad uniformity of artistic expression 

1 Sec Vol. II, Chapter HI. 2 Sec Vol. II, pp. 240 ct scq. 

8 Sfilfragen, Grundlage %u einer Geschichte der Ornamentik (1893). Sfatromiscbe Kunstindustrie (1901). 
* Amida (1910). Die bildende Kunst des Ostens (1916), Altai-Iran (1917). Die Baukunst der 
Armenier und Europa (1918). 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 109 

that overrides the contradictions of detail. 1 All these religions, the Christian, 
the Jewish, the Persian, the Manichsean, the Syncretic, 2 possessed cult-buildings 
and (at any rate in their script) an Ornamentation of the first rank; and however 
different the items of their dogmas, they are all pervaded by an homogeneous 
religiousness and express it in a homogeneous symbolism of depth-experience. 
There is something in the basilicas of Christianity, Hellenistic, Hebrew and 
Baal-cults, and in the Mithrseum, 3 the Mazdaist fire-temple and the Mosque, 
that tells of a like spirituality: it is the Cavern-icclmg. 

It becomes therefore the bounden duty of research to seek to establish the 
hitherto completely neglected architecture of the South-Arabian and Persian 
temple, the Syrian and the Mesopotamian synagogue, the cult-buildings of 
Eastern Asia Minor and even Abyssinia; 4 and in respect of Christianity to 
investigate no longer merely the Pauline West but also the Nestorian East that 
stretched from the Euphrates to China, where the old records significantly call 
its buildings ' ' Persian temples. " If in all this building practically nothing has, 
so far, forced itself specially upon our notice, it is fair to suppose that both 
the advance of Christianity first and that of Islam later could change the religion 
of a place of worship without contradicting its plan and style. We know that 
this is the case with Late Classical temples: but how many of the churches in 
Armenia may once have been fire-temples? 

The artistic centre of this Culture was very definitely — as Strzygowski 
has observed — in the triangle of cities Edessa, Nisibis, Amida. To the west- 
ward of it is the domain of the Late-Classical "Pseudomorphosis," 6 the 
Pauline Christianity that conquered in the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, 6 
Western Judaism and the cults of Syncretism. The architectural type of the Pseudo- 
morphosis, both for Jew and Gentile, is the Basilica. 7 It employs the means of 
the Classical to express the opposite thereof, and is unable to free itself from 
these means — that is the essence and the tragedy of "Pseudomorphosis." 
The more "Classical" Syncretism modifies a cult that is resident in a Euclidean 
place into one which is professed by a community of indefinite estate, the more the 
interior of the temple gains in importance over the exterior without needing 
to change either plan or roof or columns very much. The space-feeling is 

1 These contradictions of detail are not greater, after all, than those between Doric, Attic and 
Etruscan art, and certainly less than those which existed about 1450 between Florentine Renaissance, 
North French, Spanish and East-German (brick) Gothic. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 304 et seq. 

8 For a brief description of the components of a Mithrasum, the student may be referred to the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, XI Edition, art. Mithras (Section II). — Tr. 

4 The oldest Christian designs in the Empire of Axum undoubtedly agree with the pagan work 
of the Sabacans. 

6 See Vol. II, pp. 243 et seq. & See Vol. II, pp. 316 et seq. 

7 Kohl & Watzinger, Antike Synagogen in Galilda (1916). The Baal-shrines in Palmyra, Baalbek 
and many other localities are basilicas: some of them arc older than Christianity and many of them 
were later taken over into Christian use. 



zio THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

different, but not — at first — the means of expressing it. In the pagan relig- 
ious architecture of the Imperial Age there is a perceptible — though never 
yet perceived — movement from the wholly corporeal Augustan temple, in 
which the cella is the architectural expression of nothingness ; to one in which 
the interior only possesses meaning. Finally the external picture of the Perip- 
teros of the Doric is transferred to the four inside walls. Columns ranked in 
front of a windowless wall are a denial of space beyond — that is, for the 
Classical beholder, of space within, and for the Magian, of space without. 
It is therefore a question of minor importance whether the entire space is 
covered in as in the Basilica proper, or only the sanctuary as in the Sun-temple 
of Baalbek with the great forecourt, 1 which later becomes a standing element of 
the mosque and is probably of South Arabian origin. 2 That the Nave originates 
in a court surrounded by halls is suggested not only by the special development 
of the basilica-type in the East Syrian steppe (particularly Hauran) but also 
by the basic disposition of porch, nave and choir as stages leading to the altar 
— for the aisles (originally the side-halls of the court) end blind, and only the 
nave proper corresponds with the apse. This basic meaning is very evident in 
St. Paul at Rome, albeit the Pseudomorphosis (inversion of the Classical 
temple) dictated the technical means, viz., column and architrave. How sym- 
bolic is the Christian reconstruction of the Temple of Aphrodisias in Caria, in 
which the cella within the columns is abolished and replaced by a new wall 
outside them. 3 

Outside the domain of the "Pseudomorphosis," on the contrary, the cavern- 
feeling was free to develop its own form-language, and here therefore it is the 
definite roof that is emphasised (whereas in the other domain the protest against 
the Classical feeling led merely to the development of an interior). When and 
where the various possibilities of dome, cupola, barrel-vaulting, rib-vaulting, 
came into existence as technical methods is, as we have already said, a matter 
of no significance. What is of decisive importance is the fact that about the 
time of Christ's birth and the rise of the new world-feeling, the new space- 
symbolism must have begun to make use of these forms and to develop them 
further in expressiveness. It will very likely come to be shown that the fire- 
temples and synagogues of Mesopotamia (and possibly also the temples of 
Athtar in Southern Arabia) were originally cupola-buildings. 4 Certainly the 

1 Frauberger, Die Akropolis van Baalbek, plate tl. (See Ency. Brit., XI Edition, art. " Baalbek," 
for plan, etc. — Tr.") 

2 Diez, Die Kunst der islamischen Volher, pp. 8 et seq. In old Sabasan temples the altar-court 
(mahdar) is in front of the oracle chapel (makanat). 

8 Wulff, Altcbristlicbe und by^antiniscbe Kunst, p. tlj. 

* Pliny records that this region was rich in temples. It is probable that the type of the transept- 
basilica — i.e., with the entrance in one of the long sides — which is found in Hauran and is dis- 
tinctly marked in the tran verse direction of the altar space of St. Paul Without at Rome, is derived 
from a South Arabian archetype. (For the Hauran type of church see Ency. Brit., XI Ed., Vol. II, 
p. 390; and for St. Paul Without, Vol. Ill, p; 474. — Tr. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL m 

pagan marna-temple at Gaza was so, and long before Pauline Christianity took 
possession of these forms under Constantine, builders of Eastern origin had 
introduced them, as novelties to please the taste of the Megalopolitans, into 
all parts of the Roman Empire. In Rome itself, Apollodorus of Damascus was 
employed under Trajan for the vaulting of the temple of "Venus and Rome," 
and the domed chambers of the Baths of Caracalla and the so-called "Minerva 
Medica" of Gallienus's time were built by Syrians. But the masterpiece, the 
earliest of all Mosques, is the Pantheon as rebuilt by Hadrian. Here, without 
a doubt, the emperor was imitating, for the satisfaction of his own taste, 
cult-buildings that he had seen in the East. 1 

The architecture of the central-dome, in which the Magian world-feeling 
achieved its purest expression, extended beyond the limits of the Roman Em- 
pire. For the Nestorian Christianity that extended from Armenia even into 
China it was the only form, as it was also for the Manichasans and the Maz- 
daists, and it also impressed itself victoriously upon the Basilica of the West 
when the Pseudomorphosis began to crumble and the last cults of Syncretism 
to die out. In Southern France — where there were Manichsean sects even as 
late as the Crusades — the form of the East was domesticated. Under Justinian, 
the interpenetration of the two produced the domical basilica of Byzantium 
and Ravenna. The pure basilica was pushed into the Germanic West, there to 
be transformed by the energy of the Faustian depth-impulse into the cathedral. 
The domed basilica, again, spread from Byzantium and Armenia into Russia, 
where it came by slow degrees to be felt as an element of exterior architecture 
belonging to a symbolism concentrated in the roof. But in the Arabian world 
Islam, the heir of Monophysite and Nestorian Christianity and of the Jews and 
the Persians, carried the development through to the end. When it turned 
Hagia Sophia into a mosque it only resumed possession of an old property. 
Islamic domical building followed Mazdaist and Nestorian along the same 
tracks to Shan-tung and to India. Mosques grew up in the far West in Spain 
and Sicily, where, moreover, the style appears rather in its East-Aramsean- 
Persian than in its West-Aramasan-Syrian mode. 2 And while Venice looked 
to Byzantium and Ravenna (St. Mark), the brilliant age of the Norman- 
Hohenstaufen rule in Palermo taught the cities of the Italian west coast, and 
even Florence, to admire and to imitate these Moorish buildings. More than 

1 Neither technically nor in point of space-feeling has this piece of purely interior architecture 
any connexion whatever with Etruscan round-buildings. (Altmann, Die ital. Rundbauten, 1906.) 
With the cupolas of Hadrian's Villa at Tibur (Tivoli), on the contrary, its affinity is evident. 

2 Probably synagogues of domical type reached these regions, and also Morocco, long before 
Islam, through the missionary enterprise of Mesopotamian Judaism (see Vol. II, p. 153), which was 
closely allied in matters of taste to Persia. The Judaism of the Pseudomorphosis, on the contrary, 
built basilicas; its Roman catacombs show that artistically it was entirely on a par with Western 
Christianity. Of the two, it is the Judaso-Persian style coming from Spain that has become the 
pattern for the synagogues of the West — a point that has hitherto entirely escaped the notice of 
art-research. 



in THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

one of the motives that the Renaissance thought were Classical — e.g., the 
court surrounded by halls and the union of column and arch — really origi- 
nated thus. 

What is true as regards architecture is even more so as regards ornamenta- 
tion, which in the Arabian world very early overcame all figure-representation 
and swallowed it up in itself. Then, as "arabesque," it advanced to meet, to 
charm and to mislead the young art-intention of the West. 

The early-Christian-Late-Classical art of the Pseudomorphosis shows the 
same ornament-^/»j--figure mixture of the inherited "alien" and the inborn 
"proper" as does the Carolingian-Early Romanesque of (especially) Southern 
France and Upper Italy. In the one case Hellenistic intermingles with Early- 
Magian, in the other Mauro-Byzantine with Faustian. The researcher has to 
examine line after line and ornament after ornament to detect the form-feeling 
which differentiates the one stratum from the other. In every architrave, in 
every frieze, there is to be found a secret battle between the conscious old and 
the unconscious, but victorious, new motives. One is confounded by this 
general interpenetration of the Late-Hellenistic and the Early-Arabian form- 
senses, as one sees it, for example, in Roman portrait-busts (here it is often 
only in the treatment of the hair that the new way of expression is manifested); 
in the acanthus-shoots which show — often on one and the same frieze — 
chisel-work and drill-work side by side; in the sarcophagi of the 3rd Century 
in which a childlike feeling of the Giotto and Pisano character is entangled 
with a certain late and megalopolitan Naturalism that reminds one more or 
less of David or Carstens; and in buildings such as the Basilica of Maxentius l 
and many parts of the Baths and the Imperial Fora that are still very Classical 
in conception. 

Nevertheless, the Arabian soul was cheated of its maturity — like a young 
tree that is hindered and stunted in its growth by a fallen old giant of the 
forest. Here there was no brillant instant felt and experienced as such, like that 
of ours in which, simultaneously with the Crusades, the wooden beams of the 
Cathedral roof locked themselves into rib-vaulting and an interior was made to 
actualize and fulfil the idea of infinite space. The political creation of Diocle- 
tian was shattered in its glory upon the fact that, standing as he did on Classical 
ground, he had to accept the whole mass of the administrative tradition of 
Urbs Roma; this sufficed to reduce his work to a mere reform of obsolete con- 
ditions. And yet he was the first of the Caliphs. With him, the idea of the 
Arabian State emerges clearly into the light. It is Diocletian's dispensation, 
together with that of the Sassanids which preceded it somewhat and served 
in all respects as its model, that gives us the first notion of the ideal that ought 
to have gone on to fulfilment here. But so it was in all things. To this very 
day we admire as last creations of the Classical — because we cannot or will 
1 Generally called the "Basilica of Constantine." — Tr. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 2.13 

not regard them otherwise — the thought of Plotinus and Marcus Aurelius, 
the cults of Isis, Mithras and the Sun-God, the Diophantine mathematics and, 
lastly, the whole of the art which streamed towards us from the Eastern marches 
of the Roman Empire and for which Antioch and Alexandria were merely 
points d'appui. 

This alone is sufficient to explain the intense vehemence with which the 
Arabian Culture, when released at length from artistic as from other fetters, 
flung itself upon all the lands that had inwardly belonged to it for centuries 
past. It is the sign of a soul that feels itself in a hurry, that notes in fear the 
first symptoms of old age before it has had youth. This emancipation of Magian 
mankind is without a parallel. Syria is conquered, or rather delivered, in 634. 
Damascus falls in 637, Ctesiphon in 637. In 641 Egypt and India are reached, 
in 647 Carthage, in 676 Samarkand, in 710 Spain. And in 731 the Arabs stood 
before Paris. Into these few years was compressed the whole sum of saved-up 
passions, postponed hopes, reserved deeds, that in the slow maturing of other 
Cultures suffice to fill the history of centuries. The Crusaders before Jerusalem, 
the Hohenstaufen in Sicily, the Hansa in the Baltic, the Teutonic Knights in 
the Slavonic East, the Spaniards in America, the Portuguese in the East Indies, 
the Empire of Charles V on which the sun never set, the beginnings of England's 
colonial power under Cromwell — the equivalent of all this was shot out in 
one discharge that carried the Arabs to Spain and France, India and Turkestan. 

True, all Cultures (the Egyptian, the Mexican and the Chinese excepted) 
have grown up under the tutelage of some older Culture. Each of the form- 
worlds shows certain alien traits. Thus, the Faustian soul of the Gothic, 
already predisposed to reverence by the Arabian origin of Christianity, grasped 
at the treasures of Late-Arabian art. An unmistakably Southern, one might 
even say an Arabian, Gothic wove itself over the fagades of the Burgundian and 
Provengal cathedrals, dominated with a magic of stone the outward language 
of Strassburg Minster, and fought a silent battle in statues and porches, fabric- 
patterns, carvings and metalwork — and not less in the intricate figures of scho- 
lastic philosophy and in that intensely Western symbol, the Grail legend 1 — 
with the Nordic prime-feeling of Viking Gothic that rules the interior of the 
Magdeburg Cathedral, the points of Freiburg Minster and the mysticism of 
Meister Eckart. More than once the pointed arch threatens to burst its re- 
straining line and to transform itself into the horseshoe arch of Moorish- 
Norman architecture. 

So also the Apollinian art of the Doric spring — whose first efforts are 
practically lost to us — doubtless took over Egyptian elements to a very large 
extent, and by and through these came to its own proper symbolism. 

1 The Grail legend contains, besides old Celtic, well-marked Arabian elements; but where 
Wolfram von Eschenbach goes beyond his model Chrestien de Troyes, his Parzival is entirely Faus- 
tian. (Sec articles Grail and Perceval, Ency. Brit., XI Ed. — Tr. 



ii 4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

But the Magian soul of the Pseudomorphosis had not the courage to appro- 
priate alien means without yielding to them. And this is why the physiognomic 
of the Magian soul has still so much to disclose to the quester. 



The idea of the Macrocosm, then, which presents itself in the style-problem 
as simplified and capable of treatment, poses a multitude of tasks for the future 
to tackle. To make the form-world of the arts available as a means of pene- 
trating the spirituality of entire Cultures — by handling it in a thoroughly 
physiognomic and symbolic spirit — is an undertaking that has not hitherto 
got beyond speculations of which the inadequacy is obvious. We are hardly 
as yet aware that there may be a psychology of the metaphysical bases of all 
great architectures. We have no idea what there is to discover in the change 
of meaning that a form of -pure extension undergoes when it is taken over into 
another Culture. The history of the column has never yet been written, nor 
have we any notion of the deeply symbolic significances that reside in the means 
and the instruments of art. 

Consider mosaic. In Hellenic times it was made up of pieces of marble, 
it was opaque and corporeal-Euclidean (e.g., the famous Battle of Issus at 
Naples), and it adorned the floor. But with the awakening of the Arabian 
soul it came to be built up of pieces of glass and set in fused gold, and it simply 
covered the walls and roofs of the domed basilica. This Early- Arabian Mosaic- 
picturing corresponds exactly, as to phase, with the glass-picturing of Gothic 
cathedrals, both being "early" arts ancillary to religious architectures. The 
one by letting in the light enlarges the church-space into world-space, while 
the other transforms it into the magic, gold-shimmering sphere which bears 
men away from earthly actuality into the visions of Plotinus, Origen, the 
Manichseans, the Gnostics and the Fathers, and the Apocalyptic poems. 

Consider, again, the beautiful notion of uniting the round arch and the column; 
this again is a Syrian, if not a North- Arabian, creation of the third (or " high 
Gothic") century. 1 The revolutionary importance of this motive, which is 
specifically Magian, has never in the least degree been recognized; on the con- 
trary, it has always been assumed to be Classical, and for most of us indeed it 
is even representatively Classical. The Egyptians ignored any deep relation 
between the roof and the column; the latter was for them a plant-column, and 
represented not stoutness but growth. Classical man, in his turn, for whom 
the monolithic column was the mightiest symbol of Euclidean existence — all 
body, all unity, all steadiness — connected it, in the strictest proportions of 
vertical and horizontal, of strength and load, with his architrave. But here, 

1 The relation of column and arch spiritually corresponds to that of wall and cupola, and the 
interposition of the drum between the rectangle and the dome occurs " simultaneously " with that of 
the impost between the column and the arch. 



APOLLINIAN, FAUSTIAN, AND MAGIAN SOUL 115 

in this union of arch and column which the Renaissance in its tragicomic 
deludedness admired as expressly Classical (though it was a notion that the 
Classical neither possessed nor could possess), the bodily principle of load and 
inertia is rejected and the arch is made to spring clear and open out of the 
slender column. The idea actualized here is at once a liberation from all earth- 
gravity and a capture of space, and between this element and that of the dome 
which soars free but yet encloses the great "cavern," there is the deep relation 
of like meaning. The one and the other are eminently and powerfully Magian, 
and they come to their logical fulfilment in the " Rococo" stage of Moorish 
mosques and castles, wherein ethereally delicate columns — often growing out 
of, rather than based on, the ground — seem to be empowered by some secret 
magic to carry a whole world of innumerable notched arcs, gleaming ornaments, 
stalactites, and vaultings saturated with colours. The full importance of this 
basic form of Arabian architecture may be expressed by saying that the com- 
bination of column and architrave is the Classical, that of column and round 
arch the Arabian, and that of pillar and pointed arch the Faustian Leitmotiv. 
Take, further, the history of the Acanthus motive. 1 In the form in which it 
appears, for example, on the Monument of Lysicrates at Athens, it is one of 
the most distinctive in Classical ornamentation. It has body, it is and remains 
individual, and its structure is capable of being taken in at one glance. But 
already it appears heavier and richer in the ornament of the Imperial Fora 
(Nerva's, Trajan's) and that of the temple of Mars Ultor; the organic dis- 
position has become so complicated that, as a rule, it requires to be studied, 
and the tendency to fill up the surfaces appears. In Byzantine art — of which 
Riegl thirty years ago noticed the "latent Saracenic character* ' though he had 
no suspicion of the connexion brought to light here — the acanthus leaf was 
broken up into endless tendril-work which (as in Hagia Sophia) is disposed 
quite inorganically over whole surfaces. To the Classical motive are added the 
old-Aramaean vine and palm leaves, which have already played a part in Jewish 
ornamentation. The interlaced borders of ** Late-Roman* ' mosaic pavements 
and sarcophagus-edges, and even geometrical plane-patterns are introduced, 
and finally, throughout the Persian- Anatolian world, mobility and bi%arrerie 
culminate in the Arabesque. This is the genuine Magian motive — anti-plastic 
to the last degree, hostile to the pictorial and to the bodily alike. Itself bodi- 
less, it disembodies the object over which its endless richness of web is drawn. 
A masterpiece of this kind — a piece of architecture completely opened out 
into Ornamentation — is the fagade of the Castle of Mashetta in Moab built 
by the Ghassanids. 2 The craft-art of Byzantine-Islamic style (hitherto called 
Lombard, Frankish, Celtic or Old-Nordic) which invaded the whole youthful 

1 A. Riegl, Stilfragen (1893), pp. 248 et seq., irp. et seq. 

2 The Ghassanid Kingdom flourished in the extreme North-west of Arabia during the sixth 
century of our reckoning. Its people were essentially Arab, and probably came from the south; and 
an outlying cousinry inhabited Medina in the time of the Prophet. — Tr. 



2i6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

West and dominated the Carolingian Empire, was largely practised by Oriental 
craftsmen or imported as patterns for our own weavers, metal-workers and 
armourers. 1 Ravenna, Lucca, Venice, Granada, Palermo were the efficient 
centres of this then highly-civilized form-language; in the year iooo, when 
in the North the forms of a new Culture were already being developed and 
established, Italy was still entirely dominated by it. 

Take, lastly, the changed point of view towards the human body. With 
the victory of the Arabian world-feeling, men's conception of it underwent a 
complete revolution. In almost every Roman head of the period ioo-z5o that 
the Vatican Collection contains, one may perceive the opposition of Apollinian 
and Magian feeling, and of muscular position and "look" as different bases of 
expression. Even in Rome itself, since Hadrian, the sculptor made constant 
use of the drill, an instrument which was wholly repugnant to the Euclidean 
feeling towards stone — for whereas the chisel brings out the limiting surfaces 
and ipso facto affirms the corporeal and material nature of the marble block, the 
drill, in breaking the surfaces and creating effects of light and shade, denies it; 
and accordingly the sculptors, be they Christian or "pagan," lose the old 
feeling for the phenomenon of the naked body. One has only to look at the 
shallow and empty Antinous statues — and yet these were quite definitely 
"Classical." Here it is only the head that is physiognomically of interest — 
as it never is in Attic sculpture. The drapery is given quite a new meaning, 
and simply dominates the whole appearance. The consul-statues in the Capi- 
toline Museum 2 are conspicuous examples. The pupils are bored, and the eyes 
look into the distance, so that the whole expression of the work lies no longer 
in its body but in that Magian principle of the ' * Pneuma * * which Neo-Platonism 
and the decisions of the Church Councils, Mithraism and Mazdaism alike 
presume in man. 

The pagan "Father" Iamblichus, about 300, wrote a book concerning 
statues of gods in which the divine is substantially present and working upon 
the beholder. 3 Against this idea of the image — an idea of the Pseudo- 
morphosis — the East and the South rose in a storm of iconoclasm; and the 
sources of this iconoclasm lay in a conception of artistic creation that is nearly 
impossible for us to understand. 

1 Dchio, Gesch. der deutschen Kunst, I, pp. 16 ct scq. 

8 Wulff, Altchristl.-by%ant. Kunst, pp. 153 ct scq. 

8 Sec Vol. II, p. 315, Geffckcn, Dtr Ausgang des griech-rom. Heidentums (1910), p. 113. 



CHAPTER VII 
MUSIC AND PLASTIC 



I 



THE ARTS OF FORM 



CHAPTER VII 

MUSIC AND PLASTIC 
I 

THE ARTS OF FORM 



The clearest type of symbolic expression that the world-feeling of higher 
mankind has found for itself is (if we except the mathematical-scientific domain 
of presentation and the symbolism of its basic ideas) that of the arts of form, 1 
of which the number is legion. And with these arts we count music in its many 
and very dissimilar kinds; had these been brought within the domain of art- 
historical research instead of being put in a class apart from that of the pictorial- 
plastic arts, we should have progressed very much further in our understanding 
of the import of this evolution towards an end. For the formative impulse that 
is at work in the wordless 2 arts can never be understood until we come to regard 
the distinction between optical and acoustic means as only a superficial one. To 
talk of the art of the eye and the art of the ear takes us no further. It is not 
such things that divide one art from another. Only the 19th Century could 
so over-estimate the influence of -physiological conditions as to apply it to 
expression, conception or communion. A "singing" picture of Claude Lorrain 
or of Watteau does not really address itself to the bodily eye any more than 
the space-straining music since Bach addresses itself to the bodily ear. The 

1 Die hildenden Kiinste. The expression is a standard one in German, but unfamiliar in English. 
Ordinarily, however, "die bildenden Kiinste" (shaping arts, arts of form) are contrasted with " die 
redenden Kiinste " (speaking arts) — music, as giving utterance rather than spatial form to things, 
being counted among the latter. — Tr. 

2 As soon as the word, which is a transmission-agent of the understanding, comes to be used as 
the expression-agent of an art, the waking consciousness ceases to express or to take in a thing 
integrally. Not to mention the read word of higher Cultures — the medium of literature proper — . 
even the spoken word, when used in any artificial sense, separates hearing from understanding, for 
the ordinary meaning of the word also takes a hand in the process and, as this art grows in power, 
the wordless arts themselves arrive at expression-methods in which the motives are joined to word- 
meanings. Thus arises the Allegory, or motive that signifies a word, as in Baroque sculpture after 
Bernini. So, too, painting very often develops into a sort of painting- writing, as in Byzantium after 
the second Nicene Council (787) which took from the artist his freedom of choice and arrangement. 
This also is what distinguishes the arias of Gluck, in which the melody grew up out of the meaning 
of the libretto, from those of Alessandro Scarlatti, in which the texts are in themselves of no sig- 
nificance and mostly serve to carry the voices. The high-Gothic counterpoint of the 13th Cen- 
tury is entirely free from any connexion with words : it is a pure architecture of human voices in which 
several texts, Latin and vernacular, sacred and secular, were sung together. 

2.19 



no THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Classical relation between art-work and sense-organ — of which we so often 
and so erroneously remind ourselves here — is something quite different from, 
something far simpler and more material than ours. We read "Othello" and 
"Faust" and we study orchestral scores — that is, we change one sense-agency 
for another in order to let the undiluted spirit of these works take effect upon 
us. Here there is always an appeal from the outer senses to the "inner," to 
the truly Faustian and wholly un-Classical power of imagination. Only thus 
can we understand Shakespeare's ceaseless change of scene as against the Clas- 
sical unity of place. In extreme cases indeed, for instance in that of "Faust" 
itself, no representation of the work (that is, of its full content) is physically 
possible. But in music too — in the unaccompanied "A capella" of the Pales- 
trina style as well as a fortiori in the Passions of Heinrich Schiitz, in the fugues 
of Bach, in the last quartets of Beethoven, and in "Tristan" — we livingly 
experience behind the sensuous impressions a whole world of others. And it is 
only through these latter that all the fullness and depth of the work begins to 
be present to us, and it is only mediately — through the images of blond, 
brown, dusky and golden colours, of sunsets and distant ranked mountain- 
summits, of storms and spring landscapes, of foundered cities and strange faces 
which harmony conjures up for us — that it tells us something of itself. It 
is not an incident that Beethoven wrote his last works when he was deaf — 
deafness merely released him from the last fetters. For this music, sight and 
hearing equally are bridges into the soul and nothing more. To the Greek this 
visionary kind of artistic enjoyment was utterly alien. He felt the marble 
with his eye, and the thick tones of an aulos moved him almost corporally. 
For him, eye and ear are the receivers of the whole of the impression that he 
wished to receive. But for us this had ceased to be true even at the stage of 
Gothic. 

In the actual, tones are something extended, limited and numerable just 
as lines and colours are; harmony, melody, rhyme and rhythm no less so than 
perspective, proportion, chiaroscuro and outline. The distance separating two 
kinds of painting can be infinitely greater than that separating the painting 
and the music of a period. Considered in relation to a statue of Myron, the 
art of a Poussin landscape is the same as that of a contemporary chamber- 
cantata; that of Rembrandt as that of the organ works of Buxtehude, Pachelbel 
and Bach; that of Guardi as that of the Mozart opera — the inner form-language 
is so nearly identical that the difference between optical and acoustic means 
is negligible. 

The importance which the "science of art" has always attached to a time- 
less and conceptual delimitation of the individual art-spheres only proves that 
the fundamentals of the problem have not been attacked. Arts are living units, 
and the living is incapable of being dissected. The first act of the learned 
pedant has always been to partition the infinitely wide domain into provinces 



THE ARTS OF FORM tli 

determined by perfectly superficial criteria of medium and technique and to 
endow these provinces with eternal validity and immutable (!) form-principles. 
Thus he separated "Music" and "Painting," "Music" and "Drama," "Paint- 
ing * * and 4 4 Sculpture. ' ' And then he proceeded to define 4 4 the " art of Painting, 
44 the" art of Sculpture, and so on. But in fact the technical form-language is 
no more than the mask of the real work. Style is not what the shallow Semper 
— worthy contemporary of Darwin and materialism — supposed it to be, the 
product of material, technique, and purpose. It is the very opposite of this, 
something inaccessible to art-reason, a revelation of the metaphysical order, 
a mysteriousi " must," a Destiny. With the material boundaries of the different 
arts it has ho concern whatever. 

To classify the arts according to the character of the sense-impression, then, 
is to pervert the problem of form in its very enunciation. For how is it possible 
to predicate a genus 4 4 Sculpture ' * of so general a character as to admit of general 
laws being evolved from it? What is " Sculpture?" 

Take painting again. There is no such thing, as "the" art of Painting, 
and anyone who compares a drawing of Raphael, effected by outline, with 
one of Titian, effected by flecks of light and shade, without feeling that they 
belong to two different arts; any one who does not realize a dissimilarity of 
essence between the works of Giotto or Mantegna — relief, created by brush- 
stroke — and those of Vermeer or Goya — music, created on coloured canvas — 
such a one will never grasp the deeper questions. As for the frescoes of Polyg- 
notus and the mosaics of Ravenna, there is not even the similarity of technical 
means to bring them within the alleged genus, and what is there in common 
between an etching and the art of Fra Angelico, or a proto-Corinthian vase- 
painting and a Gothic cathedral-window, or the reliefs of Egypt and those of 
the Parthenon? 

If an art has boundaries at all — boundaries of its soul-become-form — they 
are historical and not technical or physiological boundaries. 1 An art is an 
organism, not a system. There is no art-genus that runs through all the cen- 
turies and all the Cultures. Even where (as in the case of the Renaissance) 
supposed technical traditions momentarily deceive us into a belief in the eternal 
validity of antique art-laws, there is at bottom entire discrepance. There is 
nothing in Greek and Roman art that stands in any relation whatever to the 
form-language of a Donatello statue or a painting of Signorelli or a fagade of 
Michelangelo. Inwardly, the Quattrocento is related to the contemporary 
Gothic and to nothing else. The fact of the archaic Greek Apollo-type being 
"influenced " by Egyptian portraiture, or early Tuscan representation by Etrus- 

1 Our pedantic method has given us an art-history that excludes music-history; and while the 
one has become a normal element of higher education, the other has remained an affair solely for the 
expert. It is just as though one tried to write a history of Greece without taking Sparta into account. 
The result is a theory of "Art" that is a pious fraud. 



tll THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

can tomb-painting, implies precisely what is implied by that of Bach's writing 
a fugue upon an alien theme — he shows what he can express with it. Every 
individual art — Chinese landscape or Egyptian plastic or Gothic counterpoint 

— is once existent \ and departs with its soul and its symbolism never to return. 

ii 

With this, the notion of Form opens out immensely. Not only the tech- 
nical instrument, not only the form-language, but also the choice of art-genus 
itself is seen to be an expression-means. What the creation of a masterpiece 
means for an individual artist — the "Night Watch" for Rembrandt or the 
"Meistersinger" for Wagner — that the creation of a species of art, compre- 
hended as such, means for the life-history of a Culture. It is epochal. Apart 
from the merest externals, each such art is an individual organism without 
predecessor or successor. Its theory, technique and convention all belong to 
its character, and contain nothing of eternal or universal validity. When one 
of these arts is born, when it is spent, whether it dies or is transmuted into 
another, why this or that art is dominant in or absent from a particular Culture 

— all these are questions of Form in the highest sense, just as is that other 
question of why individual painters and musicians unconsciously avoid certain 
shades and harmonies or, on the contrary, show preferences so marked that 
authorship-attributions can be based on them. 

The importance of these groups of questions has not yet been recognized 
by theory, even by that of the present day. And yet it is precisely from this 
side, the side of their physiognomic, that the arts are accessible to the under- 
standing. Hitherto it has been supposed — without the slightest examination 
of the weighty questions that the supposition involves — that the several 
"arts" specified in the conventional classification-scheme (the validity of 
which is assumed) are all fossible at all times and places, and the absence of 
one or another of them in particular cases is attributed to the accidental lack 
of creative personalities or impelling circumstances or discriminating patrons 
to guide "art" on its "way." Here we have what I call a transference of the 
causality-principle from the world of the become to that of the becoming. 
Having no eye for the perfectly different logic and necessity of the Living, for 
Destiny and the inevitableness and unique occurrence of its expression-possibilities, 
men had recourse to tangible and obvious "causes" for the building of their 
art-history, which thus came to consist of a series of events of only superficial 
concordance. 

I have already, in the earliest pages of this work, exposed the shallowness 
of the notion of a linear progression of "mankind" through the stages of 
"ancient," "mediaeval" and "modern," a notion that has made us blind to 
the true history and structure of higher Cultures. The history of art is a con- 
spicuous case in point. Having assumed as self-evident the existence of a 



THE ARTS OF FORM 113 

number of constant and well-defined provinces of art, one proceeded to order 
the history of these several provinces according to the — equally self-evident 
— scheme of ancient-mediseval-modern, to the exclusion, of course, of Indian 
and East-Asiatic art, of the art of Axum and Saba, of the Sassanids and of 
Russia, which if not omitted altogether were at best relegated to appendices. 
It occurred to no one that such results argued unsoundness in the method; the 
scheme was there, demanded facts, and must at any price be fed with them. 
And so a futile up-and-down course was stolidly traced out. Static times were 
described as "natural pauses," it was called "decline" when some great art 
in reality died, and "renaissance" where an eye really free from prepossessions 
would have seen another art being born in another landscape to express another 
humanity. Even to-day we are still taught that the Renaissance was a rebirth 
of the Classical. And the conclusion was drawn that it is possible and right 
to take up arts that are found weak or even dead (in this respect the present 
is a veritable battle-field) and set them going again by conscious reformation- 
program or forced 4 4 revival . ' ' 

And yet it is precisely in this problem of the end, the impressively sudden 
end, of a great art — the end of the Attic drama in Euripides, of Florentine 
sculpture with Michelangelo, of instrumental music in Liszt, Wagner and 
Bruckner — that the organic character of these arts is most evident. If we 
look closely enough we shall have no difficulty in convincing ourselves that 
no one art of any greatness has ever been "reborn." 

Of the Pyramid style nothing passed over into the Doric. Nothing connects 
the Classical temple with the basilica of the Middle East, for the mere taking 
over of the Classical column as a structural member, though to a superficial 
observer it seems a fact of the first importance, weighs no more in reality than 
Goethe's employment of the old mythology in the "Classical Walpurgis 
Night" scene of "Faust." To believe genuinely in a rebirth of Classical art, 
or any Classical art, in the Western 15 th Century requires a rare stretch of the 
imagination. And that a great art may die not merely with the Culture but 
within it, we may see from the fate of music in the Classical world. 1 Possibili- 
ties of great music there must have been in the Doric springtime — how other- 
wise can we account for the importance of old-fashioned Sparta in the eyes of 
such musicians as there were later (for Terpander, Thaletas and Alcman were 
effective there when elsewhere the statuary art was merely infantile)? — and 
yet the Late-Classical world refrained. In just the same fashion everything 
that the Magian Culture had attempted in the way of frontal portraiture, deep 
relief and mosaic finally succumbed before the Arabesque; and everything of the 
plastic that had sprung up in the shade of Gothic cathedrals at Chartres, Reims, 
Bamberg, Naumburg, in the Niirnberg of Peter Vischer and the Florence of 

1 This sentence is not in the original. It has been inserted, and the following sentence modified, 
for the sake of clarity. — 7>. 



1X4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Verrocchio, vanished before the oil-painting of Venice and the instrumental 
music of the Baroque. 



in 



The temple of Poseidon at Paestum and the Minster of Ulm, works of the 
ripest Doric and the ripest Gothic, differ precisely as the Euclidean geometry 
of bodily bounding-surf aces differs from the analytical geometry of the position 
of points in space referred to spatial axes. All Classical building begins from 
the outside, all Western from the inside. The Arabian also begins with the 
inside, but it stays there. There is one and only one soul, the Faustian, that 
craves for a style which drives through walls into the limitless universe of 
space and makes both the exterior and the interior of the building complemen- 
tary images of one and the same world-feeling. The exterior of the basilica 
and the domical building may be a field for ornamentation, but architecture it is 
not. The impression that meets the beholder as he approaches is that of some- 
thing shielding, something that hides a secret. The form-language in the 
cavern-twilight exists for the faithful only — that is the factor common to 
the highest examples of the style and to the simplest Mithraea and Catacombs, 
the prime powerful utterance of a new soul. Now, as soon as the Germanic 
spirit takes possession of the basilical type, there begins a wondrous mutation 
of all structural parts, as to both position and significance. Here in the Faus- 
tian North the outer form of the building, be it cathedral or mere dwelling- 
house, begins to be brought into relation with the meaning that governs the 
arrangement of the interior, a meaning undisclosed in the mosque and non- 
existent in the temple. The Faustian building has a visage and not merely a 
fagade (whereas the front of a peripteros is, after all, only one of four sides and 
the centre-domed building in principle has not even a front) and with this 
visage, this head, is associated an articulated trunk that draws itself out 
through the broad plain like the cathedral at Speyer, or erects itself to the 
heavens like the innumerable spires of the original design of Reims. The 
motive of the fa$ade, which greets the beholder and tells him the inner meaning 
of the house, dominates not only individual major buildings but also the whole 
aspect of our streets, squares and towns with their characteristic wealth of 
windows. 1 

The great architecture of the early period is ever the mother of all following 
arts; it determines the choice of them and the spirit of them. Accordingly, we 
find that the history of the Classical shaping art is one untiring effort to ac- 
complish one single ideal, viz., the conquest of the free-standing human body 

1 See Vol. II, p. no. The aspect of the streets of Old Egypt may have been very similar to this, 
if we can draw conclusions from tesserae discovered in Cnossus (see H. Bossert, Alt Kreta (192.1), T. 
14). And the Pylon is an undoubted and genuine fagade. (Such tesserse, bearing pictures of win- 
dowed houses, are illustrated in Art. " Aigean Civilization" Ency. Brit., XI Edition, Vol. I, p. 2.51, 
plate IV, fig. 1. — Tr.*). 



THE ARTS OF FORM xi 5 

as the vessel of the pure real present. The temple of the naked body was to it 
what the cathedral of voices was to the Faustian from earliest counterpoint 
to the orchestral writing of the 18th Century. We have failed hitherto to 
understand the emotional force of this secular tendency of the Apollinian, 
because we have not felt how the purely material, soulless body (for the Temple 
of the Body, too, has no "interior "Qis the object 'which archaic relief, 
Corinthian painting on clay, and Attic fresco were all striving to obtain until 
Polycletus and Phidias showed how to achieve it in full. We have, with a 
wonderful blindness, assumed this kind of sculpture as both authoritative 
and universally possible, as in fact, "the art of sculpture." We have written 
its history as one concerned with all peoples and periods, and even to-day 
our sculptors, under the influence of unproved Renaissance doctrines, speak 
of the naked human body as the noblest and most genuine object of "the" 
art of sculpture. Yet in reality this statue-art, the art of the naked body 
standing free upon its footing and appreciable from all sides alike, existed in 
the Classical and the Classical only, for it was that Culture alone which 
quite decisively refused to transcend sense-limits in favour of space. The 
Egyptian statue is always meant to be seen from the front — it is a variant 
of plane-relief. And the seemingly Classically-conceived statues of the Renais- 
sance (we are astounded, as soon as it occurs to us to count them, to find 
how few of them there are are nothing but a semi-Gothic reminiscence. 

The evolution of this rigorously non-spatial art occupies the three centuries 
from 650 to 350, a period extending from the completion of the Doric and the 
simultaneous appearance of a tendency to free the figures from the Egyptian 
limitation of frontalness 2 to the coming of the Hellenistic and its illusion- 
painting which closed-off the grand style. This sculpture will never be rightly 
appreciated until it is regarded as the last and highest Classical, as springing 
from a plane art, first obeying and then overcoming the fresco. No doubt the technical 
origin can be traced to experiments in figure-wise treatment of the pristine 
column, or the plates that served to cover the temple wall, 8 and no doubt there 
are here and there imitations of Egyptian works (seated figures of Miletus), 
although very few Greek artists can ever have seen one. 4 But as a form-ideal 
the statue goes back through relief to the archaic clay-painting in which 
fresco also originated. Relief, like fresco, is tied to the bodily wall. All this 
sculpture right down to Myron may be considered as relief detached from the 

1 Ghiberti has not outgrown the Gothic, nor has even Donatello; and already in Michelangelo 
the feeling is Baroque, i.e., musical. 

2 The struggle to fix the problem is visible in the series of "Apollo-figures." See D6onna, Les 
Apollons archaiqius (1909). 

8 Woermann, Gescbicbte der Kunst, I (191 5), p. 136. The first tendency is seen in the 
Samian Hera of Cheramues and the persistent turning of columns into caryatids; the second 
in the Delian figure dedicated to Artemis by Nicandra, with its relation to the oldest metope- 
technique. 

* Miletus was in a particular relation with Egypt through Naucratis. — Tr. 



xl6 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

plane. In the end, the figure is treated as a self-contained body apart from the 
mass of the building, but it remains essentially a silhouette in front of a wall. 1 
Direction in depth is excluded, and the work is spread out frontally before the 
beholder. Even the Marsyas of Myron can be copied upon vases or coins without 
much trouble or appreciable foreshortenings. 2 Consequently, of the two major 
"late" arts after 650, fresco definitely has the priority. The small stock of 
types is always to be found first in vase-figuring, which is often exactly par- 
alleled by quite late sculptures. We know that the Centaur group of the West 
pediment at Olympia was worked out from a painting. On the iEgina temple, 
the advance from the West to the East pediment is an advance from the fresco- 
character to the body-character. The change is completed about 460 with 
Polycletus, and thenceforward plastic groups become the model for strict paint- 
ing. But it is from Lysippus that the wholly cubic and "all-ways " treatment 
becomes thoroughly veristic and yields "fact." Till then, even in the case of 
Praxiteles, we have still a lateral or planar development of the subject, with a 
clear outline that is only fully effective in respect of one or two standpoints. 
But an undeviating testimony to the picture-origin of independent sculpture is 
the practice of polychroming the marble — a practice unknown to the Renais- 
sance and to Classicism, which would have felt it as barbaric 3 — and we may 
say the same of the gold-and-ivory statuary and the enamel overlaying of 
bronze, a metal which already possesses a shining golden tone of its own. 

IV 

The corresponding stage of Western art occupies the three centuries 1500- 
1800, between the end of late Gothic and the decay of Rococo which marks the 
end of the great Faustian style. In this period, conformably to the persistent 
growth into consciousness of the will to spatial transcendence, it is instrumental 
music that develops into the ruling art. At the beginning, in the 17th Century, 
music uses the characteristic tone-colours of the instruments, and the contrasts 
of strings and wind, human voices and instrumental voices, as means where- 
with to -paint. Its (quite unconscious) ambition is to parallel the great masters 
from Titian to Velasquez and Rembrandt. It makes pictures (in the sonata 
from Gabrieli [d. 1612.] to Corelli [d. 1713] every movement shows a theme 
embellished with graces and set upon the background of a basso continue/), 
paints heroic landscapes (in the pastoral cantata), and draws a portrait in 
lines of melody (in Monteverde's "Lament of Ariadne," 1608). With the 
German masters, all this goes. Painting can take music no further. Music 
becomes itself absolute: it is music that (quite unconsciously again) dominates 

1 Most of the works are pediment-groups or metopes. But even the Apollo-figures and the 
"Maidens" of the Acropolis could not have stood free. 

2 V. Salis, Kunst der Griechcn (1919), pp. 47, 98 et seq. 

8 The decisive preference of the white stone is itself significant of the opposition of Renaissance 
to Classical feeling. 



THE ARTS OF FORM tlj 

both painting and architecture in the 18th Century. And, ever more and more 
decisively, sculpture fades out from among the deeper possibilities of this 
form-world. 

What distinguishes painting as it was before, from painting as it was after, 
the shift from Florence to Venice — or, to put it more definitely, what sepa- 
rates the painting of Raphael and that of Titian as two entirely distinct arts — 
is that the plastic spirit of the one associates painting with relief, while the 
musical spirit of the other works in a technique of visible brush-strokes and 
atmospheric depth-effects that is akin to the chromatic of string and wind 
choruses. It is an opposition and not a transition that we have before us, and 
the recognition of the fact is vital to our understanding of the organism of these 
arts. Here, if anywhere, we have to guard against the abstract hypothesis of 
"eternal art-laws." "Painting" is a mere word. Gothic glass-painting was 
an element of Gothic architecture, the servant of its strict symbolism just as 
the Egyptian and the Arabian and every other art in this stage was the servant 
of the stone-language. Draped figures were built up as cathedrals were. Their 
folds were an ornamentation of extreme sincerity and severe expressiveness. To 
criticize their "stiffness" from a naturalistic-imitative point of view is to miss 
the point entirely. 

Similarly "music" is a mere word. Some music there has been everywhere 
and always, even before any genuine Culture, even among the beasts. But the 
serious music of the Classical was nothing but a -plastic for the ear. The tetra- 
chords, chromatic and enharmonic, have a structural and not a harmonic 
meaning: 1 but this is the very difference between body and space. This music 
was single-voiced. The few instruments that it employed were all developed 
in respect of capacity for tone-plastic; and naturally therefore it rejected the 
Egyptian harp, an instrument that was probably akin in tone-colour to the 
harpischord. But, above all, the melody — like Classical verse from Homer 
to Hadrian's time — was treated quantitatively and not accentually; that is, 
the syllables, their bodies and their extent, decided the rhythm. The few frag- 
ments that remain suffice to show us that the sensuous charm of this art is 
something outside our comprehension; but this very fact should cause us also 

1 All Greek scales are capable of reduction to " tetrachords " or four-note scales of which the 
form E — note — note — A is typical. In the diatonic the unspecified inner notes are F, G; in the 
chromatic they are F, F sharp; and in the enharmonic they are E half-sharp, F. Thus, the chromatic 
and enharmonic scales do not provide additional notes as the modern chromatic does, but simply 
displace the inner members of the scale downwards, altering the proportionate distances between 
the same given total. In Faustian music, on the contrary, the meaning of "enharmonic" is simply 
relational. It is applied to a change, say from A flat to G sharp. The difference between these two 
is not a quarter-tone but a " very small " interval (theory and practice do not even agree as to which 
note is the higher, and in tempered instruments with standardized scales the physical difference 
is eliminated altogether). While a note is being sounded, even without any physical change in it, 
its harmonic co-ordinates (i.e., substantially, the key of the harmony) may alter, so that henceforth 
the note, from A flat, has become G sharp. — Tr. 



zz8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

to reconsider our ideas as to the impressions purposed and achieved by the 
statuary and the fresco, for we do not and cannot experience the charm that 
these exercised upon the Greek eye. 

Equally incomprehensible to us is Chinese music: in which, according to 
educated Chinese, we are never able to distinguish gay from grave. 1 Vice 
versa, to the Chinese all the music of the West without distinction is march- 
music. Such is the impression that the rhythmic dynamic of our life makes upon 
the accentless Tao of the Chinese soul, and, indeed, the impression that our 
entire Culture makes upon an alien humanity — the directional energy of our 
church-naves and our storeyed fagades, the depth-perspectives of our pictures, 
the march of our tragedy and narrative, not to mention our technics and the 
whole course of our private and public life. We ourselves have accent in our 
blood and therefore do not notice it. But when our rhythm is juxtaposed with 
that of an alien life, we find the discordance intolerable. 

Arabian music, again, is quite another world. Hitherto we have only 
observed it through the medium of the Pseudomorphosis, as represented by 
Byzantine hymns and Jewish psalmody, and even these we know only in so 
far as they have penetrated to the churches of the far West as antiphons, re- 
sponsorial psalmody and Ambrosian chants. 2 But it is self-evident that not 
only the religious west of Edessa (the syncretic cults, especially Syrian sun- 
worship, the Gnostic and the Mandsean) but also those to the east (Mazdaists, 
Manichseans, Mithraists, the synagogues of Irak and in due course the Nesto- 
rian Christians) must have possessed a sacred music of the same style; that side 
by side with this a gay secular music developed (above all, amongst the South- 
Arabian and Sassanid chivalry 3 ); and that both found their culmination in the 
Moorish style that reigned from Spain to Persia. 

Out of all this wealth, the Faustian soul borrowed only some few church- 
forms and, moreover, in borrowing them, it instantly transformed them root 
and branch (ioth Century, Hucbald, Guido d'Arezzo). Melodic accent and 
beat produced the "march," and polyphony (like the rime of contemporary 
poetry) the image of endless space. To understand this, we have to distinguish 
between the imitative 4 and the ornamental sides of music, and although 
owing to the fleeting nature of all tone-creations 6 our knowledge is limited to 
the musical history of our own West, yet this is quite sufficient to reveal that 
duality of development which is one of the master-keys of all art-history. 

1 In the same way the whole of Russian music appears to us infinitely mournful, but real Rus- 
sians assure us that it is not at all so for themselves. 

2 See articles under these headings in Grove's "Dictionary of Music." — Tr. 
s See Vol. II, p. 138. 

4 In Baroque music the word "imitation" means something quite different from this, vi2., 
the exact repetition of a motive in a new colouring (starting from a different note of the 
scale). 

6 For all that survives performance is the notes, and these speak only to one who still knows and 
can manage the tone and technique of the expression-means appropriate to them. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 119 

The one is soul, landscape, feeling, the other strict form, style, school. West 
Europe has an ornamental music of the grand style (corresponding to the full 
plastic of the Classical) which is associated with the architectural history of 
the cathedral, which is closely akin to Scholasticism and Mysticism, and which 
finds its laws in the motherland of high Gothic between Seine and Scheldt. 
Counterpoint developed simultaneously with the flying-buttress system, and 
its source was the "Romanesque" style of the Fauxbourdon and the Discant 
with their simple parallel and contrary motion. 1 It is an architecture of human 
voices and, like the statuary-group and the glass-paintings, is only conceivable 
in the setting of these stone vaultings. With them it is a high art of space, of 
that space to which Nicolas of Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux, gave mathematical 
meaning by the introduction of co-ordinates. 2 This is the genuine "rinascita" 
and "reformatio" as Joachim of Floris saw it at the end of the izth Century 3 
— the birth of a new soul mirrored in the form-language of a new art. 

Along with this there came into being in castle and village a secular imita- 
tive music, that of troubadours, Minnesanger and minstrels. As "ars nova" 
this travelled from the courts of Provence to the palaces of Tuscan patricians 
about 1300, the time of Dante and Petrarch. It consisted of simple melodies 
that appealed to the heart with their major and minor, of canzoni, madrigals 
and caccias, and it included also a type of galante operetta (Adam de la Hale's 
"Robin and Marion"). After 1400, these forms give rise to forms of collec- 
tive singing — the rondeau and the ballade. All this is "art" for a public. 4 
Scenes are painted from life, scenes of love, hunting, chivalry. The point 
of it is in the melodic inventiveness, instead of in the symbolism of its linear 
progress. 

Thus, musically as otherwise, the castle and the cathedral are distinct. The 
cathedral is music and the castle makes music. The one begins with theory, the 
other with impromptu: it is the distinction between waking consciousness 
and living existence, between the spiritual and the knightly singer. Imitation 
stands nearest to life and direction and therefore begins with melody, while 
the symbolism of counterpoint belongs to extension and through polyphony 
signifies infinite space. The result was, on the one side, a store of "eternal" 
rules and, on the other, an inexhaustible fund of folk-melodies on which even 
the 18th Century was still drawing. The same contrast reveals itself, artisti- 
cally, in the c/^j-j-opposition of Renaissance and Reformation. 6 The courtly 
taste of Florence was antipathetic to the spirit of counterpoint; the evolution 

1 See articles Fauxbourdon, Discant and Gimel in Grove's "Dictionary of Music." — Tr. 

2 Note that Oresme was a contemporary of Machault and Philippe de Vitry, in whose generation 
the rules and prohibitions of strict counterpoint were definitively established. 

8 See p. 19 and Vol. II, p. 357. 

4 Even the first great troubadour, Guilhem of Poitiers, though a reigning sovereign, made it his 
ambition to be regarded as a "professional," as we should say. — Tr. 
8 Sec also Vol. II, p. 365. 



2.30 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

of strict musical form from the Motet to the four-voice Mass through Dun- 
staple, Binchois and Dufay (c. 1430) proceeded wholly within the magic circle 
of Gothic architecture. From Fra Angelico to Michelangelo the great Nether- 
landers ruled alone in ornamental music. Lorenzo de f Medici found no one in 
Florence who understood the strict style, and had to send for Dufay. And while 
in this region Leonardo and Raphael were painting, in the north Okeghem 
(d. 1495) an d ki s school and Josquin des Pres (d. 15x1) brought the formal 
polyphony of human voices to the height of fulfilment. 

The transition into the "Late" age was heralded in Rome and Venice. 
With Baroque the leadership in music passes to Italy. But at the same time 
architecture ceases to be the ruling art and there is formed a group of Faustian 
special-arts in which oil-painting occupies the central place. About 1560 the 
empire of the human voice comes to an end in the a cappella style of Pales- 
trina and Orlando Lasso (both d. 1594). Its powers could no longer express 
the passionate drive into the infinite, and it made way for the chorus of in- 
struments, wind and string. And thereupon Venice produced Titian-music, 
the new madrigal that in its flow and ebb follows the sense of the text. The 
music of the Gothic is architectural and vocal, that of the Baroque pictorial 
and instrumental. The one builds, the other operates by means of motives. 
For all the arts have become urban and therefore secular. We pass from super- 
personal Form to the personal expression of the Master, and shortly before 
1600 Italy produces the basso continuo which requires virtuosi and not pious 
participants. 

Thenceforward, the great task was to extend the tone-corpus into the 
infinity, or rather to resolve it into an infinite space of tone. Gothic had developed 
the instruments into families of definite timbre. But the new-born ' ' orchestra 
no longer observes limitations imposed by the human voice, but treats it as a 
voice to be combined with other voices — at the same moment as our mathe- 
matic proceeds from the geometrical analysis of Fermat to the purely functional 
analysis of Descartes. 1 In Zarlino's " Harmony* ' (1558) appears a genuine 
perspective of pure tonal space. We begin to distinguish between ornamental 
and fundamental instruments. Melody and embellishment join to produce the 
Motive, and this in development leads to the rebirth of counterpoint in the 
form of the fugal style, of which Frescobaldi was the first master and Bach 
the culmination. To the vocal masses and motets the Baroque opposes its 
grand, orchestrally-conceived forms of the oratorio (Carissimi), the cantata 
(Viadana) and the opera (Monteverde). Whether a bass melody be set 
against upper voices, or upper voices be concerted against one another upon 
a background of basso continuo, always sound-worlds of characteristic expres- 
sion-quality work reciprocally upon one another in the infinity of tonal space, 
supporting, intensifying, raising, illuminating, threatening, overshadowing — 

1 Sec p. 74- 



THE ARTS OF FORM 2.31 

a music all of interplay, scarcely intelligible save through ideas of contempo- 
rary Analysis. 

From out of these forms of the early Baroque there proceeded, in the 17th 
Century, the sonata-like forms of suite, symphony and concerto grosso. The 
inner structure and the sequence of movements, the thematic working-out and 
modulation became more and more firmly established. And thus was reached 
the great, immensely dynamic, form in which music — now completely bodiless 
— was raised by Corelli and Handel and Bach to be the ruling art of the West. 
When Newton and Leibniz, about 1670, discovered the Infinitesimal Calculus, 
the fugal style was fulfilled. And when, about 1740, Euler began the definitive 
formulation of functional Analysis, Stamitz and his generation were discover- 
ing the last and ripest form of musical ornamentation, the four-part movement * 
as vehicle of pure and unlimited motion. For, at that time, there was still 
this one step to be taken. The theme of the fugue " is, ' ' that of the new sonata- 
movement "becomes," and the issue of its working out is in the one case a 
picture, in the other a drama. Instead of a series of pictures we get a cyclic 
succession, 2 and the real source of this tone-language was in the possibilities, 
realized at last, of our deepest and most intimate kind of music — the music of 
the strings. Certain it is that the violin is the noblest of all instruments that 
the Faustian soul has imagined and trained for the expression of its last secrets, 
and certain it is, too, that it is in string quartets and violin sonatas that it has 
experienced its most transcendent and most holy moments of full illumination. 
Here, in chamber-music, Western art as a whole reaches its highest point. Here our 
prime symbol of endless space is expressed as completely as the Spearman of 
Polycletus expresses that of intense bodiliness. When one of those ineffably 
yearning violin-melodies wanders through the spaces expanded around it by 
the orchestration of Tartini or Nardini, Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, we know 
ourselves in the presence of an art beside which that of the Acropolis is alone 
worthy to be set. 

With this, the Faustian music becomes dominant among the Faustian arts. 
It banishes the plastic of the statue and tolerates only the minor art — an entirely 
niusical, refined, un-Classical and counter-Renaissance art — of porcelain, which 
(as a discovery of the West) is contemporary with the rise of chamber-music to 
full effectiveness. Whereas the statuary of Gothic is through-and-through 
architectural ornamentation, human espalier-work, that of the Rococo re- 
markably exemplifies the pseudo-plastic that results from entire subjection to 
the form-language of music, and shows to what a degree the technique govern- 

1 A movement in sonata form consists essentially of (a) First Subject; (f) Second Subject (in an 
allied key); (c) Working-out, or free development of the themes grouped under (a) and (F); and 
(d) Recapitulation, in which the two subjects are repeated in the key of the tonic. 

The English usage is to consider (a) and (f) with the bridge or modulation connecting them, to- 
gether as the "Exposition," and the form is consequently designated "three-part." — Tr. 

2 Einstein, Gesch. der Musik, p. 67. 



vp. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ing the presented foreground can be in contradiction with the real expression- 
language that is hidden behind it. Compare Coysevox's * (1686) crouching 
Venus in the Louvre with its Classical prototype in the Vatican — in the one 
plastic is understudying music, in the other plastic is itself. Terms like "stac- 
cato," "accelerando," "andante" and "allegro" best describe the kind of 
movements that we have here, the flow of the lines, the fluidity in the being of 
the stone itself which like the porcelain has more or less lost its fine compact- 
ness. Hence our feeling that the granular marble is out of keeping. Hence, too, 
the wholly un-Classical tendency to work with reference to effects of light and 
shade. This is quite in conformity with the principles of oil-painting from 
Titian onwards. That which in the 18th Century is called "colour" in an etch- 
ing, a drawing, or a sculpture-group really signifies music. Music dominates 
the painting of Watteau and Fragonard and the art of Gobelins and pastels, 
and since then, have we not acquired the habit of speaking of colour-tones or 
tone-colours? And do not the very words imply a recognition of a final homo- 
geneity between the two arts, superficially dissimilar as they are? And are not 
these same words perfectly meaningless as applied to any and every Classical 
art? But music did not stop there; it transmuted also the architecture of Ber- 
nini's Baroque into accord with its own spirit, and made of it Rococo, a style 
of transcendent ornamentation upon which lights (or rather "tones") play 
to dissolve ceilings, walls and everything else constructional and actual into 
polyphonies and harmonies, with architectural trills and cadences and runs to 
complete the identification of the form-language of these halls and galleries 
with that of the music imagined for them. Dresden and Vienna are the homes 
of this late and soon-extinguished fairyland of visible chamber music, of 
curved furniture and mirror-halls, and shepherdesses in verse and porcelain. 
It is the final brilliant autumn with which the Western soul completes the 
expression of its high style. And in the Vienna of the Congress-time it faded 
and died. 



The Art of the Renaissance, considered from this particular one of its many 
aspects, 2 is a revolt against the spirit of the Faustian forest-music of counterpoint, 
which at that time was preparing to vassalize the whole form-language of the 
Western Culture. It was the logical consequence of the open assertion of this 
will in matured Gothic. It never disavowed its origin and it maintained the 
character of a simple counter-movement; necessarily therefore it remained de- 
pendent upon the forms of the original movement, and represented simply the 
effect of these upon a hesitant soul. Hence, it was without true depth, either 

1 Coysevox lived 1640-1710. Much of the embellishment and statuary of Versailles is his work. 
— Tr. 

2 Sec Vol. II, pp. 357 et seq., 365 ct scq. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 2.33 

ideal or phenomenal. As to the first, we have only to think of the bursting 
passion with which the Gothic world-feeling discharged itself upon the whole 
Western landscape, and we shall see at once what sort of a movement it was 
that the handful of select spirits — scholars, artists and humanists — initiated 
about 142.0. x In the first the issue was one of life and death for a new-born 
soul, in the second it was a point of — taste. The Gothic gripped life in its 
entirety, penetrated its most hidden corners. It created new men and a new 
world. From the idea of Catholicism to the state-theory of the Holy Roman 
Emperors, from the knightly tourney to. the new city-form, from cathedral 
to cottage, from language-building to the village maiden's bridal attire, from 
oil-painting to the Spielmann's song, everything is hall-marked with the stamp 
of one and the same symbolism. But the Renaissance, when it had mastered 
some arts of word and picture, had shot its bolt. It altered the ways of thought 
and the life-feeling of West Europe not one whit. It could penetrate as far as 
costume and gesture, but the roots of life it could not touch — even in Italy 
the world-outlook of the Baroque is essentially a continuation of the Gothic. 2 
It produced no wholly great personality between Dante and Michelangelo, 
each of whom had one foot outside its limits. And as for the other — phe- 
nomenal or manifested depth — the Renaissance never touched the people, even 
in Florence itself. The man for whom they had ears was Savonarola — a phe- 
nomenon of quite another spiritual order and one which begins to be compre- 
hensible when we discern the fact that, all the time, the deep under-currents 
are steadily flowing on towards the Gothic-musical Baroque. The Renaissance 
as an anti-Gothic movement and a reaction against the spirit of polyphonic 
music has its Classical equivalent in the Dionysiac movement. This was a re- 
action against Doric and against the sculptural-Apollinian world-feeling. It 
did not " originate* ' in the Thracian Dionysus-cult, but merely took this up as 
a weapon against and counter-symbol to the Olympian religion, precisely as in 
Florence the cult of the antique was called in for the justification and confirma- 
tion of a feeling already there. The period of the great protest was the 7th 
Century in Greece and (therefore) the 15th in West Europe. In both cases we have 
in reality an outbreak of deep-seated discordances in the Culture, which physi- 
ognomically dominates a whole epoch of its history and especially of its artistic 
world — in other words, a stand that the soul attempts to make against the 
Destiny that at last it comprehends. The inwardly recalcitrant forces — Faust* s 
second Soul that would separate itself from the other — are striving to deflect the 

1 It was not merely national-Italian (for that Italian Gothic was also): it was purely Florentine, 
and even within Florence the ideal of one class of society. That which is called Renaissance in the 
Trecento has its centre in Provence and particularly in the papal court at Avignon, and is nothing 
whatever but the southern type of chivalry, that which prevailed in Spain and Upper Italy and was 
so strongly influenced by the Moorish polite society of Spain and Sicily. 

8 Renaissance ornament is merely embellishment and self-conscious "art* '-inventiveness. It is 
only with the frank and outspoken Baroque that we return to the necessities of high symbolism. 



234, THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

sense of the Culture, to repudiate, to get rid of or to evade its inexorable neces- 
sity; it stands anxious in presence of the call to accomplish its historical fate 
in Ionic and Baroque. This anxiety fastened itself in Greece to the Dionysus- 
cult with its musical, deniaterializing, body-squandering orgasm, and in the 
Renaissance to the tradition of the Antique and its cult of the bodily-plastic 
tradition. In each case, the alien expression-means was brought in consciously 
and deliberately, in order that the force of a directly-opposite form-language 
should provide the suppressed feelings with a weight and a pathos of their 
own, and so enable them to stand against the stream — in Greece the stream 
which flowed from Homer and the Geometrical to Phidias, in the West 
that which flowed from the Gothic cathedrals, through Rembrandt, to 
Beethoven. 

It follows from the very character of a counter-movement that it is far easier 
for it to define what it is opposing than what it is aiming at. This is the diffi- 
culty of all Renaissance research. In the Gothic (and the Doric) it is just the 
opposite — men are contending for something, not against it — but Renais- 
sance art is nothing more nor less than anti-Gothic art. Renaissance music, 
too, is a contradiction in itself; the music of the Medicean court was the 
Southern French "ars nova," that of the Florentine Duomo was the Low- 
German counterpoint, both alike essentially Gothic and the property of the 
whole West. 

The view that is customarily taken of the Renaissance is a very clear instance 
of how readily the proclaimed intentions of a movement may be mistaken for 
its deeper meaning. Since Burckhardt, 1 criticism has controverted every indi- 
vidual proposition that the leading spirits of the age put forward as to their 
own tendencies — and yet, this done, it has continued to use the word Renais- 
sance substantially in the former sense. Certainly, one is conscious at once in 
passing to the south of the Alps of a marked dissimilarity in architecture in 
particular and in the look of the arts in general. But the very obviousness of 
the conclusion that the impression prompts should have led us to distrust it 
and to ask ourselves, instead, whether the supposed distinction of Gothic and 
"antique" was not in reality merely a difference between Northern and Southern 
aspects of one and the same form-world. Plenty of things in Spain give the 
impression of being " Classical" merely because they are Southern, and if a 
layman were confronted with the great cloister of S. Maria Novella or the fagade 
of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and asked to say if these were "Gothic" he 
would certainly guess wrong. Otherwise, the sharp change of spirit ought to 
have set in not beyond the Alps but only beyond the Apennines, for Tuscany 
is artistically an island in Italian Italy. Upper Italy belongs entirely to a 
Byzantine-tinted Gothic; Siena in particular is a genuine monument of the 

1 Jacob Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien. (An English translation was published 
in 1878. — Tr.) 



THE ARTS OF FORM 135 

counter-Renaissance, and Rome is already the home of Baroque. But, in fact, it 
is the change of landscape that coincides with the change of feeling. 

In the actual birth of the Gothic style Italy had indeed no inward share. 
At the epoch of 1000 the country was still absolutely under the domination of 
Byzantine taste in the East and Moorish taste in the South. When Gothic 
first took root here it was the mature Gothic, and it implanted itself with an 
intensity and force for which we look in vain in any of the great Renaissance 
creations — think of the "Stabat Mater," the "Dies Iras," Catharine of Siena, 
Giotto and Simone Martini! At the same time, it was lighted from the South 
and its strangeness was, as it were, softened in acclimatization. That which 
it suppressed or expelled was not, as has been supposed, some lingering strains 
of the Classical but purely the Byzantine-c#fl2-Saracen form-language that ap- 
pealed to the senses in familiar everyday life — in the buildings of Ravenna 
and Venice but even more in the ornament of the fabrics, vessels and arms 
imported from the East. 

If the Renaissance had been a "renewal" (whatever that may mean) of 
the Classical world-feeling, then, surely, would it not have had to replace the 
symbol of embraced and rhythmically-ordered space by that of closed structural 
body! But there was never any question of this. On the contrary, the Renais- 
sance practised wholly and exclusively an architecture of space prescribed for 
it by Gothic, from which it differed only in that in lieu of the Northern "Sturm 
und Drang" it breathed the clear equable calm of the sunny, care-free and un- 
questioning South. It produced no new building-idea, and the extent of its 
architectural achievement might almost be reduced to fagades and courtyards. 

Now, this focussing of expressible effort upon the street-front of a house or 
the side of a cloister — many-windowed and ever significant of the spirit within 
• — is characteristic of the Gothic (and deeply akin to its art of portraiture); 
and the cloistered courtyard itself is, from the Sun-temple of Baalbek to the 
Court of the Lions in the Alhambra, as genuinely Arabian. And in the midst 
of this art the Poseidon temple of Passtum, all body, stands lonely and un- 
related: no one saw it, no one attempted to copy it. Equally un-Attic is the 
Florentine sculpture, for Attic is free plastic, ' ' in the round ' ' in the full sense of 
the words, whereas every Florentine statue feels behind it the ghost of the niche 
into which the Gothic sculptor had built its real ancestors. In the relation of 
figure to background and in the build of the body, the masters of the "Kings' 
heads" at Chartres and the masters of the "George" choir at Bamberg exhibit 
the same interpenetration of "Antique" and Gothic expression-means that we 
have, neither intensified nor contradicted, in the manner of Giovanni Pisano 
and Ghiberti and even Verrocchio. 

If we take away from the models of the Renaissance all elements that 
originated later than the Roman Imperial Age — that is to say, those belonging 
to the Magian form-world — nothing is left. Even from Late-Roman archi- 



2.36 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tecture itself all elements derived from the great days of Hellas had one by one 
vanished. Most conclusive of all, though, is that motive which actually 
dominates the Renaissance, which because of its Southern-ness we regard as the 
noblest of the Renaissance characters, viz., the association of round-arch and 
column. This association, no doubt, is very un-Gothic, but in the Classical 
style it simply does not exist, and in fact it represents the leitmotif of the 
Magian architecture that originated in Syria. 

But it was just then that the South received from the North those decisive 
impulses which helped it first of all to emancipate itself entirely from Byzantium 
and then to step from Gothic into Baroque. In the region comprised between 
Amsterdam, Koln and Paris * — the counter-pole to Tuscany in the style- 
history of our culture — counterpoint and oil-painting had been created in 
association with the Gothic architecture. Thence Dufay in 1418 and Willaert 
in 1516 came to the Papal Chapel, and in 152.7 the latter founded that Venetian 
school which was decisive of Baroque music. The successor of Willaert was 
de Rore of Antwerp. A Florentine commissioned Hugo van der Goes to exe- 
cute the Portinari altar for Santa Maria Nuova, and Memlinc to paint a Last 
Judgment. And over and .above this, numerous pictures (especially Low- 
Countries portraits) were acquired and exercised an enormous influence. In 
1450 Rogier van der Weyden himself came to Florence, where his art was both 
admired and imitated. In 1470 Justus van Gent introduced oil-painting to 
Umbria, and Antonello da Messina brought what he had learned in the Nether- 
lands to Venice. How much "Dutch" and how little "Classical" there is 
in the pictures of Filippino Lippi, Ghirlandaio and Botticelli and especially 
in the engravings of Pollaiulo! Or in Leonardo himself. Even to-day critics 
hardly care to admit the full extent of the influence exercised by the Gothic 
North upon the architecture, music, painting and plastic of the Renaissance. 2 
It was just then, too, that Nicolaus Cusanus, Cardinal and Bishop of Brixen 
(1401-1464), brought into mathematics the "infinitesimal" principle, that 
contrapuntal method of number which he reached by deduction from the idea of 
God as Infinite Being. It was from Nicholas of Cusa that Leibniz received the 
decisive impulse that led him to work out his differential calculus; and thus 
was forged the weapon with which dynamic, Baroque, Newtonian, physics 
definitely overcame the static idea characteristic of the Southern physics that 
reaches a hand to Archimedes and is still effective even in Galileo. 

The high period of the Renaissance is a moment of apparent expulsion of 
music from Faustian art. And in fact, for a few decades, in the only area where 
Classical and Western landscapes touched, Florence did uphold — with one 

1 Inclusive of Paris itself. Even as late as the fifteenth century Flemish was as much spoken there 
as French, and the architectural appearance of the city in its oldest parts connects it with Bruges and 
Ghent and not with Troyes and Poitiers. 

2 A. Schmarsow, Gotik in der Renaissance (192.1); B. Haendke, Der niederl. Einfluss auf die Malerei 
Toskana-Umbriens (Monatsbefts fur Kunstwissensch. 1912,)* 



THE ARTS OF FORM 237 

grand effort that was essentially metaphysical and essentially defensive — an 
image of the Classical so convincing that, although its deeper characters were 
without exception mere anti-Gothic, it lasted beyond Goethe and, if not for 
our criticism, yet for our feelings, is valid to this day. The Florence of Lorenzo 
de' Medici and the Rome of Leo the Tenth — that is what for us the Classical 
is, an eternal goal of most secret longing, the only deliverance from our heavy 
hearts and limit upon our horizon. And it is this because, and only because, 
it is anti-Gothic. So clean-cut is the opposition of Apollinian and Faustian 
spirituality. 

But let there be no mistake as to the extent of this illusion. In Florence men 
practiced fresco and relief in contradiction of Gothic glass-painting and Byzan- 
tine gold-ground mosaic. This was the one moment in the history of the West 
when sculpture ranked as the paramount art. The dominant elements in the 
picture are the poised bodies, the ordered groups, the structural side of archi- 
tecture. The backgrounds possess no intrinsic value, merely serving to fill up 
between and behind the self-sufficient present of the foreground-figures. For 
a while here, painting is actually under the domination of plastic; Verrocchio, 
Pollaiuolo and Botticelli were goldsmiths. Yet, $11 the same, these frescoes 
have nothing of the spirit of Polygnotus in them. Examine a collection of 
Classical painted vases — not in individual specimens or copies (which would 
give the wrong idea) but in the mass, for this is the one species of Classical art 
in which originals are plentiful enough to impress us effectively with the will 
that is behind the art. In the light of such a study, the utter un-Classicalness 
of the Renaissance-spirit leaps to the eye. The great achievement of Giotto and 
Masaccio in creating a fresco-art is only apparently a revival of the Apollinian 
way of feeling; but the depth-experience and idea of extension that underlies 
it is not the Apollinian unspatial and self-contained body but the Gothic field 
(Bildraum). However recessive the backgrounds are, they exist. Yet here 
again there was the fullness of light, the clarity of atmosphere, the great 
noon-calm, of the South; dynamic space was changed in Tuscany, and only in 
Tuscany, to the static space of which Piero della Francesca was the master. 
Though fields of space were painted, they were put, not as an existence un- 
bounded and like music ever striving into the depths, but as sensuously definable. 
Space was given a sort of bodiliness and order in plane layers, and drawing, 
sharpness of outline, definition of surface were studied with a care that seem- 
ingly approached the Hellenic ideal. Yet there was always this difference, 
that Florence depicted space perspectively as singular in contrast with things 
as plural, whereas Athens presented things as separate singulars in contrast 
to general nothingness. And in proportion as the surge of the Renaissance 
smoothed down, the hardness of this tendency receded, from Masaccio's frescoes 
in the Brancacci Chapel to Raphael's in the Vatican Stanze, until the sjumato 
of Leonardo, the melting of the edges into the background, brings a musical 



x 3 8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ideal in place of the relief-ideal into painting. The hidden dynamic is equally 
unmistakable in the sculpture of Florence — it would be perfectly hopeless to 
look for an Attic companion for Verrocchio's equestrian statue. 1 This art was 
a mask, i. mode of the taste of an 61ite, and sometimes a comedy — though 
never was comedy more gallantly played out. The indescribable inward purity 
of Gothic form often causes us to forget what an excess of native strength and 
depth it possessed. Gothic, it must be repeated again, is the only foundation of 
the Renaissance. The Renaissance never even touched the real Classical, let 
alone understood it or "revived" it. The consciousness of the Florentine 
elite, wholly under literary influences, fashioned the deceptive name to posi- 
tivize the negative element of the movement — thereby demonstrating how 
little such currents are aware of their own nature. There is not a single one 
of their great works that the contemporaries of Pericles, or even those of Csesar, 
would not have rejected as utterly alien. Their palace courtyards are Moorish 
courtyards, and their round arches on slender pillars are of Syrian origin. 
Cimabue taught his century to imitate with the brush the art of Byzantine 
mosaic. Of the two famous domical buildings of the Renaissance, the domed 
cathedral of Florence is a masterpiece of late Gothic, and St. Peter's is one of 
early Baroque. When Michelangelo set himself to build the latter as the 
"Pantheon towering over the Basilica of Maxentius," he was naming two 
buildings of the purest early Arabian style. And ornament — is there indeed 
a genuine Renaissance ornamentation? Certainly there is nothing comparable 
in symbolic force with the ornamentation of Gothic. But what is the prov- 
enance of that gay and elegant embellishment which has a real inward unity 
of its own and has captivated all Europe? There is a great difference between the 
home of a "taste" and the home of the expression-means that it employs: one 
finds a great deal that is Northern in the early Florentine motives of Pisano, 
Maiano, Ghiberti and Delia Quercia. We have to distinguish in all these 
chancels, tombs, niches and porches between the outward and transferable 
forms (the Ionic column itself is doubly a transfer, for it originated in Egypt) 
and the spirit of the form-language that uses them as means and signs. One 
Classical element or item is equivalent to another so long as something un- 
Classical is being expressed — significance lies not in the thing but in the way 
in which it is used. But even in Donatello such motives are far fewer than in 
mature Baroque. As for a strict Classical capital, no such thing is to be found. 
And yet, at moments, Renaissance art succeeded in achieving something 
wonderful that music could not reproduce — a feeling for the bliss of perfect 
nearness, for pure, restful and liberating space-effects, bright and tidy and free 
from the passionate movement of Gothic and Baroque. It is not Classical, 
but it is a dream of Classical existence, the only dream of the Faustian soul in 
which it was able to forget itself. 

1 The colossal statue of Bartolommeo Colleone at Venice. — Tr. 



THE ARTS OF FORM x 39 



VI 



And now, with the 16th Century, the decisive epochal turn begins for West- 
ern painting. The trusteeship of architecture in the North and that of sculpture 
in Italy expire, and painting becomes polyphonic, "picturesque," infinity- 
seeking. The colours become tones. The art of the brush claims kinship with 
the style of cantata and madrigal. The technique of oils becomes the basis of 
an art that means to conquer space and to dissolve things in that space. With 
Leonardo and Giorgione begins Impressionism. 

In the actual picture there is trans valuation of all the elements. The back- 
ground, hitherto casually put in, regarded as a fill-up and, as space, almost 
shuffled out of sight, gains a preponderant importance. A development sets 
in that is paralleled in no other Culture, not even in the Chinese which in many 
other respects is so near to ours. The background as symbol of the infinite 
conquers the sense-perceptible foreground, and at last (herein lies the distinc- 
tion between the depicting and the delineating styles) the depth-experience of 
the Faustian soul is captured in the kinesis of a picture. The space-relief of 
Mantegna's plane layers dissolves in Tintoretto into directional energy, and 
there emerges in the picture the great symbol of an unlimited space-universe 
which comprises the individual things within itself as incidentals — the hori- 
zon. Now, that a landscape painting should have a horizon has always seemed 
so self-evident to us that we have never asked ourselves the important question: 
Is there always a horizon, and if not, when not and why not? In fact, there is 
not a hint of it, either in Egyptian relief or in Byzantine mosaic or in vase- 
paintings and frescoes of the Classical age, or even in those of the Hellenistic 
in spite of its spatial treatment of foregrounds. This line, in the unreal vapour 
of which heaven and earth melt, the sum and potent symbol of the far, contains 
the painter's version of the "infinitesimal" principle. It is out of the remote- 
ness of this horizon that the music of the picture flows, and for this reason the 
great landscape-painters of Holland paint only backgrounds and atmospheres, 
just as for the contrary reason "anti-musical" masters like Signorelli and 
especially Mantegna, paint only foregrounds and 4 ' reliefs. ' ' It is in the horizon, 
then, that Music triumphs over Plastic, the passion of extension over its sub- 
stance. It is not too much to say that no picture by Rembrandt has a foreground 
at all. In the North, the home of counterpoint, a deep understanding of the 
meaning of horizons and high-lighted distances is found very early, while in 
the South the flat conclusive gold-background of the Arabic-Byzantine picture 
long remained supreme. The first definite emergence of the pure space-feeling 
is in the Books of Hours of the Duke of Berry (that at Chantilly and that at 
Turin) about 141 6. Thereafter, slowly and surely, it conquers the Picture. 

The same symbolic meaning attaches to clouds. Classical art concerns itself 
with them ho more than with horizons, and the painter of the Renaissance 



240 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

treats them with a certain playful superficiality. But very early the Gothic 
looked at its cloud-masses, and through them, with the long sight of mysticism; 
and the Venetians (Giorgione and Paolo Veronese above all) discovered the 
full magic of the cloud-world, of the thousand-tinted Being that fills the 
heavens with its sheets and wisps and mountains. Griinewald and the Nether- 
landers heightened its significance to the level of tragedy. El Greco brought 
the grand art of cloud-symbolism to Spain. 

It was at the same time that along with oil-painting and counterpoint the 
art of gardens ripened. Here, expressed on the canvas of Nature itself by ex- 
tended pools, brick walls, avenues, vistas and galleries, is the same tendency 
that is represented in painting by the effort towards the linear perspective that 
the early Flemish artists felt to be the basic problem of their art and Brunel- 
lesco, Alberti and Piero della Francesca formulated. We may take it that it 
was not entirely a coincidence that this formulation of perspective, this mathe- 
matical consecration of the picture (whether landscape or interior) as a field 
limited at the sides but immensely increased in depth, was propounded just 
at this particular moment. It was the proclamation of the Prime-Symbol. 
The point at which the perspective lines coalesce is at infinity. It was just 
because it avoided infinity and rejected distance that Classical painting pos- 
sessed no perspective. Consequently the Park, the deliberate manipulation of 
Nature so as to obtain space and distance effects, is an impossibility in Classical 
art. Neither in Athens nor in Rome proper was there a garden-art: it was only 
the Imperial Age that gratified its taste with ground-schemes of Eastern origin, 
and a glance at any of the plans of those "gardens " that have been preserved l is 
enough to show the shortness of their range and the emphasis of their bounds. 
And yet the first garden-theorist of the West, L. B. Alberti, was laying down 
the relation of the surroundings to the house (that is, to the spectators in it) 
as early as 1450, and from his projects to the parks of the Ludovisi and Albani 
villas, 2 we can see the importance of the perspective view into distance be- 
coming ever greater and greater. In France, after Francis I (Fontainebleau) 
the long narrow lake is an additional feature having the same meaning. 

The most significant element in the Western garden-art is thus the pint de 
vue of the great Rococo park, upon which all its avenues and clipped-hedge 
walks open and from which vision may travel out to lose itself in the distances. 
This element is wanting even in the Chinese garden-art. But it is exactly 
matched by some of the silver-bright distance-pictures of the pastoral music 
of that age (in Couperin for example). It is the point de vue that gives us the 
key to a real understanding of this remarkable mode of making nature itself 

1 Svoboda, Komische und Komanische Patistc (1919); Rostowzew, Pompeianiscbe Landscbajtm und 
Romischc Villen (JR.om. mitt., 1904). 

* Environs of Rome. They date from the late 17th and the mid-i8th centuries respectively; the 
gardens of the V. Ludovisi were laid out by Le Ndtre. — Tr. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 141 

speak the form-language of a human symbolism. It is in principle akin to the 
dissolution of finite number-pictures into infinite series in our mathematic: 
as the remainder-expression x reveals the ultimate meaning of the series, so 
the glimpse into the boundless is what, in the garden, reveals to a Faustian 
soul the meaning of Nature. It was we and not the Hellenes or the men of the 
high Renaissance that prized and sought out high mountain tops for the sake 
of the limitless range of vision that they afford. This is a Faustian craving — 
to be alone with endless space. The great achievement of Le N6tre and the land- 
scape-gardeners of Northern France, beginning with Fouquet's epoch-making 
creation of Vaux-le-Vicomte, was that they were able to render this symbol 
with such high emphasis. Compare the Renaissance park of the Medicean 
age — capable of being taken in, gay, cosy, well-rounded — with these parks 
in which all the water-works, statue-rows, hedges and labyrinths are instinct 
with the suggestion of long range. It is the Destiny of Western oil-painting 
told over again in a bit of garden-history. 

But the feeling for long range is at the same time one for history. At a 
distance, space becomes time and the horizon signifies the future. The Baroque 
■park is the park of the Late season, of the approaching end, of the falling leaf. 
A Renaissance park is meant for the summer and the noonday. It is timeless, 
and nothing in its form-language reminds us of mortality. It is perspective 
that begins to awaken a premonition of something passing, fugitive and final. 
The very words of distance possess, in the lyric poetry of all Western languages, 
a plaintive autumnal accent that one looks for in vain in the Greek and Latin. It 
is there in Macpherson's "Ossian" and Holderlin, and in Nietzsche's Dionysus- 
Dithyrambs, and lastly in Baudelaire, Verlaine, George and Droem. The Late 
poetry of the withering garden avenues, the unending lines in the streets of a 
megalopolis, the ranks of pillars in a cathedral, the peak in a distant mountain 
chain — all tell us that the depth-experience which constitutes our space- 
world for us is in the last analysis our inward certainty of a Destiny, of a 
prescribed direction, of time, of the irrevocable. Here, in the experience of 
horizon as future, we become directly and surely conscious of the identity of 
Time with the "third dimension" of that experienced space which is living 
self-extension. And in these last days we are imprinting upon the plan of our 
megalopolitan streets the same directional-destiny character that the 17th 
Century imprinted upon the Park of Versailles. We lay our streets as long 
arrow-flights into remote distance, regardless even of preserving old and 
historic parts of our towns (for the symbolism of these is not now prepo- 
tent in us), whereas a megalopolis of the Classical world studiously main- 
tained in its extension that tangle of crooked lanes that enabled Apollinian 
man to feel himself a body in the midst of bodies. 2 Herein, as always, 

1 That is, the expression for the sum of a convergent series beyond any specified term. — Tr, 
* See Vol. II, pp. 117 et seq. 



up. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

practical requirements, so called, are merely the mask of a profound inward 
compulsion. 

With the rise of perspective, then, the deeper form and full metaphysical 
significance of the picture comes to be concentrated upon the horizon. In 
Renaissance art the painter had stated and the beholder had accepted the con- 
tents of the picture for what they were, as self-sufficient and co-extensive with 
the title. But henceforth the contents became a means, the mere vehicle of a 
meaning that was beyond the possibility of verbal expression. With Mantegna 
or Signorelli the pencil sketch could have stood as the picture, without being 
carried out in colour — in some cases, indeed, we can only regret that the artist 
did not stop at the cartoon. In the statue-like sketch, colour is a mere supple- 
ment. Titian, on the other hand, could be told by Michelangelo that he did 
not know how to draw. The "object," i.e., that which could be exactly fixed 
by the drawn outline, the near and material, had in fact lost its artistic actual- 
ity; but, as the theory of art was still dominated by Renaissance impressions, 
there arose thereupon that strange and interminable conflict concerning the 
"form" and the "content" of an art-work. Mis-enunciation of the question 
has concealed its real and deep significance from us. The first point for con- 
sideration should have been whether painting was to be conceived of plastically 
or musically, as a static of things or as a dynamic of space (for in this lies the 
essence of the opposition between fresco and oil technique), and the second 
point, the opposition of Classical and Faustian world-feeling. Outlines define 
the material, while colour-tones interpret space. 1 But the picture of the first 
order belongs to directly sensible nature — it narrates. Space, on the contrary, 
is by its very essence transcendent and addresses itself to our imaginative powers, 
and in an art that is under its suzerainty, the narrative element enfeebles and 
obscures the more profound tendency. Hence it is that the theorist, able to feel 
the secret disharmony but misunderstanding it, clings to the superficial opposi- 
tion of content and form. The problem is purely a Western one, and reveals 
most strikingly the complete inversion in the significance of pictorial elements 
that took place when the Renaissance closed down and instrumental music of 
the grand style came to the front. For the Classical mind no problem of form 
and content in this sense could exist; in an Attic statue the two are completely 
identical and identified in the human body. 

The case of Baroque painting is further complicated by the fact that it in- 
volves an opposition of ordinary popular feeling and the finer sensibility. 
Everything Euclidean and tangible is also popular, and the genuinely popular 
art is therefore the Classical. It is very largely the feeling of this popular char- 

1 In Classical painting, light and shadow were first consistently employed by Zeuxis, but only 
for the shading of the thing itself, for the purpose of freeing the modelling of the body painted from the 
restriction of the relief-manner, i.e., without any reference to the relation of shadows to the time of 
day. But even with the earliest of the Netherlanders light and shade are already colour-tones and 
affected by atmosphere. 



THE ARTS OF FORM i 43 

acter in it that constitutes its indescribable charm for the Faustian intellects 
that have to fight for self-expression, to win their world by hard wrestling. For 
us, the contemplation of Classical art and its intention is pure refreshment: here 
nothing needs to be struggled for, everything offers itself freely. And something 
of the same sort was achieved by the anti-Gothic tendency of Florence. Raphael 
is, in many sides of his creativeness, distinctly popular. But Rembrandt is not, 
cannot be, so. From Titian painting becomes more and more esoteric. So, too, 
poetry. So, too, music. And the Gothic per se had been esoteric from its very 
beginnings — witness Dante and Wolfram. The masses of Okeghem and 
Palestrina, or of Bach for that matter, were never intelligible to the average 
member of the congregation. Ordinary people are bored by Mozart and Bee- 
thoven, and regard music generally as something for which one is or is not in 
the mood. A certain degree of interest in these matters has been induced by 
concert room and gallery since the age of enlightenment invented the phrase 
" art for all." But Faustian art is not, and by very essence cannot be, "for all." 
If modern painting has ceased to appeal to any but a small (and ever decreasing) 
circle of connoisseurs, it is because it has turned away from the painting of 
things that the man in the street can understand. It has transferred the prop- 
erty of actuality from contents to space — the space through which alone, 
according to Kant, things are. And with that a difficult metaphysical element 
has entered into painting, and this element does not give itself away to the lay- 
man. For Phidias, on the contrary, the word ' ' lay ' ' would have had no mean- 
ing. His sculpture appealed entirely to the bodily and not to the spiritual eye. 
An art without space is a priori unphilosophical. 



VII 



With this is connected an important principle of composition. In a picture it 
is possible to set the things inorganically above one another or side by side or 
behind one another without any emphasis of perspective or interrelation, i.e., 
without insisting upon the dependence of their actuality upon the structure of 
space which does not necessarily mean that this dependence is denied. Primi- 
tive men and children draw thus, before their depth-experience has brought the 
sense-impressions of their world more or less into fundamental order. But this 
order differs in the different Cultures according to the prime symbols of these 
Cultures. The sort of perspective composition that is so self-evident to us is a 
particular case, and it is neither recognized nor intended in the painting of any 
other Culture. Egyptian art chose to represent simultaneous events in super- 
posed ranks, thereby eliminating the third dimension from the look of the 
picture. The Apollinian art placed figures and groups separately, with a de- 
liberate avoidance of space-and-time relations in the plane of representation, 
Polygnotus's frescoes in the Lesche of the Cnidians at Delphi are a celebrated 
instance of this. There is no background to connect the individual scenes — 



2.44 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

for such a background would have been a challenge to the principle that things 
alone are actual and space non-existent. The pediment of the JEgina. temple, 
the procession of gods on the Frangois Vase and the Frieze of the Giants of 
Pergamum are all composed as meander-syntheses of separate and interchange- 
able motives, without organic character. It is only with the Hellenistic age 
(the Telephus Frieze of the altar of Pergamum is the earliest example that has 
been preserved) that the un-Classical motive of the consistent series comes into 
existence. In this respect, as in others, the feeling of the Renaissance was truly 
Gothic. It did indeed carry group-composition to such a pitch of perfection 
that its work remains the pattern for all following ages. But the order of it all 
proceeded out of space. In the last analysis, it was a silent music of colour- 
illumined extension that created within itself light-resistances, which the under- 
standing eye could grasp as things and as existence, and could set marching 
with an invisible swing and rhythm out into the distance. And with this 
spatial ordering, with its unremarked substitution of air- and light-perspective 
for line-perspective, the Renaissance was already, in essence, defeated. 

And now from the end of the Renaissance in Orlando Lasso and Palestrina 
right up to Wagner, from Titian right up to Manet and Mar6es and Leibl, 
great musicians and great painters followed close upon one another while the 
plastic art sank into entire insignificance. Oil-painting and instrumental music 
evolve organically towards aims that were comprehended in the Gothic and 
achieved in the Baroque. Both arts — Faustian in the highest sense — are with- 
in those limits -prime phenomena. They have a soul, a physiognomy and therefore 
a history. And in this they are alone. All that sculpture could thenceforward 
achieve was a few beautiful incidental pieces in the shadow of painting, garden- 
art, or architecture. The art of the West had no real need of them. There was 
no longer a style of plastic in the sense that there were styles of painting or 
music. No consistent tradition or necessary unity links the works of Maderna, 
Goujon, Puget and Schluter. Even Leonardo begins to despise the chisel out- 
right: at most he will admit the bronze cast, and that on account of its pic- 
torial advantages. Therein he differs from Michelangelo, for whom the marble 
block was still the true element. And yet even Michelangelo in his old age 
could no longer succeed with the plastic, and none of the later sculptors are 
great in the sense that Rembrandt and Bach are great. There were clever and 
tasteful performances no doubt, but not one single work of the same order as the 
"Night Watch" or the "Matthew Passion," nothing that expresses, as these 
express, the whole depth of a whole mankind. This art had fallen out of the 
destiny of the Culture. Its speech meant nothing now. What there is in a 
Rembrandt portrait simply cannot be rendered in a bust. Now and then a 
sculptor of power arises, like Bernini or the masters of the contemporary Spanish 
school, or Pigalle or Rodin (none of whom, naturally, transcended the decora- 
tive and attained the level of grand symbolism), but such an artist is always 



THE ARTS OF FORM 145 

visibly either a belated imitator of the Renaissance like Thorwaldsen, a dis- 
guised painter like Houdon or Rodin, an architect like Bernini and Schliiter or 
a decorator like Coysevox. And his very appearance on the scene only shows 
the more clearly that this art, incapable of carrying the Faustian burden, has no 
longer a mission — and therefore no longer a soul or a life-history of specific 
style-development — in the Faustian world. In the Classical world, cor- 
respondingly, music was the art that failed. Beginning with probably quite 
important advances in the earliest Doric, it had to give way in the ripe centuries 
of Ionic (650-350) to the two truly Apollinian arts, sculpture and fresco; re- 
nouncing harmony and polyphony, it had to renounce therewith any pretensions 
to organic development as a higher art. 



VIII 



The strict style in Classical painting limited its palette to yellow, red, black 
and white. This singular fact was observed long ago, and, since the explanation 
was only sought for in superficial and definitely material causes, wild hypothe- 
ses were brought forward to account for it, e.g., a supposed colour-blindness in 
the Greeks. Even Nietzsche discussed this (Morgenrote, 416). 

But why did this painting in its great days avoid blue and even blue-green, 
and only begin the gamut of permissible tones at greenish-yellow and bluish- 
red? It is not that the ancient artists did not know of blue and its effect. The 
metopes of many temples had blue backgrounds so that they should appear deep 
in contrast with the triglyphs; and trade-painting used all the colours that were 
technically available. There are authentic blue horses in archaic Acropolis 
work and Etruscan tomb-painting; and a bright blue colouring of the hair 
was quite common. The ban upon it in the higher art was, without a doubt, 
imposed upon the Euclidean soul by its prime symbol. 

Blue and green are the colours of the heavens, the sea, the fruitful plain, 
the shadow of the Southern noon, the evening, the remote mountains. 
They are essentially atmospheric and not substantial colours. They are cold y 
they disembody, and they evoke impressions of expanse and distance and 
boundlessness. 

For this reason they were kept out of the frescoes of Polygnotus* And for 
this reason also, an "infinitesimal" blue-to-green is the space-creating element 
throughout the history of our perspective oil-painting, from the Venetians 
right into the 19th Century; it is the basic and supremely important tone which 
suf forts the ensemble of the intended colour-effect, as the basso continuo supports 
the orchestra, whereas the warm yellow and red tones are put on sparingly and 
in dependence upon this basic tone. It is not the full, gorgeous and familiar 
green that Raphael and Durer sometimes — and seldom at that — use for 
draperies, but an indefinite blue-green of a thousand nuances into white and 
grey and brown; something deeply musical, into which (notably in Gobelin 



146 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tapestry) the whole atmosphere is plunged. That quality which we have 
named aerial perspective in contrast to linear — and might also have called 
Baroque perspective in contrast to Renaissance — rests almost exclusively upon 
this. We find it with more and more intense depth-effect in Leonardo, Guercino, 
Albani in the case of Italy, and in Ruysdael and Hobbema in that of Holland, 
but, above all, in the great French painters, from Poussin and Claude Lorrain 
and Watteau to Corot. Blue, equally a perspective colour, always stands in 
relation to the dark, the unillumined, the unactual. It does not press in on us, 
it pulls us out into the remote. An "enchanting nothingness" Goethe calls it 
in his Farbenlehre. 

Blue and green are transcendent, spiritual, non-sensuous colours. They are 
missing in the strict Attic fresco and therefore dominant in oil-painting. Yellow 
and red, the Classical colours, are the colours of the material, the near, the 
full-blooded. Red is the characteristic colour of sexuality — hence it is the 
only colour that works upon the beasts. It matches best the Phallus-symbol 
— and therefore the statue and the Doric column — but it is pure blue that 
etherealizes the Madonna's mantle. This relation of the colours has established 
itself in every great school as a deep-felt necessity. Violet, a red succumb- 
ing to blue, is the colour of women no longer fruitful and of priests living in 
celibacy. 

Yellow and red are the popular colours, the colours of the crowd, of children, 
of women, and of savages. Amongst the Venetians and the Spaniards high 
personages affected a splendid black or blue, with an unconscious sense of the 
aloofness inherent in these colours. For red and yellow, the Apollinian y Eucli- 
dean-polytheistic colours, belong to the foreground even in respect of social life; 
they are meet for the noisy hearty market-days and holidays, the naive imme- 
diateness of a life subject to the blind chances of the Classical Fatum, the point- 
existence. But blue and green — the Faustian, monotheistic colours — are 
those of loneliness, of care, of a present that is related to a past and a future, 
of destiny as the dispensation governing the universe from within. 

The relation of Shakespearian destiny to space and of Sophoclean to the in- 
dividual body has already been stated in an earlier chapter. All the genuinely 
transcendent Cultures — that is all whose prime-symbol requires the overcoming 
of the apparent, the life of struggle and not that of acceptance — have the same 
metaphysical inclination to space as to blues and blacks. There are profound 
observations on the connexion between ideas of space and the meaning of colour 
in Goethe's studies of "entoptic colours" in the atmosphere; the symbolism 
that is enunciated by him in the Farbenlehre and that which we have deduced 
here from the ideas of Space and Destiny are in complete agreement. 

The most significant use of dusky green as the colour of destiny is Griine- 
wald's. The indescribable power of space in his nights is equalled only by Rem- 
brandt's. And the thought suggests itself here, is it possible to say that his 



THE ARTS OF FORM 147 

bluish-green, the colour in which the interior of a great cathedral is so often 
clothed, is the specifically Catholic colour? — it being understood that we mean 
by "Catholic" strictly the Faustian Christianity (with the Eucharist as its 
centre) that was founded in the Lateran Council of 12.15 anc ^ fulfilled in the 
Council of Trent. This colour with its silent grandeur is as remote from the 
resplendent gold-ground of Early Christian-Byzantine pictures as it is from 
the gay, loquacious "pagan" colours of the painted Hellenic temples and 
statues. It is to be noted that the effect of this colour, entirely unlike that of 
yellow and red, depends upon work being exhibited indoors. Classical painting 
is emphatically a public art, Western just as emphatically a studio-art. The 
whole of our great oil-painting, from Leonardo to the end of the 18th Century, 
is not meant for the bright light of day. Here once more we meet the same 
opposition as that between chamber-music and the free-standing statue. The 
climatic explanation of the difference is merely superficial; the example of 
Egyptian painting would suffice to disprove it if disproof were necessary at all. 
Infinite space meant for Classical feeling complete nothingness, and the use of 
blue and green, with their powers of dissolving the near and creating the far, 
would have been a challenge to the absolutism of the foreground and its unit- 
bodies, and therefore to the very meaning and intent of Apollinian art. To the 
Apollinian eye, pictures in the colours of Watteau would have been destitute 
of all essence, things of almost inexpressible emptiness and untruth. By these 
colours the visually-perceived light-reflecting surface of the picture is made 
effectively to render, not circumscribed things, but circumambient space. And 
that is why they are missing in Greece and dominant in the West. 



IX 



Arabian art brought the Magian world-feeling to expression by means of 
the gold ground of its mosaics and pictures. Something of the uncanny wizardry 
of this, and by implication of its symbolic purpose, is known to us through 
the mosaics of Ravenna, in the work of the Early Rhenish and especially North 
Italian masters who were still entirely under the influence of Lombardo- 
Byzantine models, and last but not least in the Gothic book-illustrations of 
which the archetypes were the Byzantine purple codices. 

In this instance we can Study the soul of three Cultures working upon very 
similar tasks in very dissimilar ways. The Apollinian Culture recognized as 
actual only that which was immediately present in time and place — and thus 
it repudiated the background as pictorial element. The Faustian strove through 
all sensuous barriers towards infinity — and it projected the centre of gravity 
of the pictorial idea into the distance by means of perspective. The Magian 
felt all happening as an expression of mysterious powers that filled the world- 
cavern with their spiritual substance — and it shut off the depicted scene with 
a gold background, that is, by something that stood beyond and outside all 



248 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

nature-colours. Gold is not a colour. As compared with simple yellow, it 
produces a complicated sense-impression, through the metallic, diffuse reful- 
gence that is generated by its glowing surface. Colours — whether coloured 
substance incorporated with the smoothed wall-face (fresco) or pigment ap- 
plied with the brush — are natural. But the metallic gleam, which is practi- 
cally never found in natural conditions, is unearthly. 1 It recalls impressively 
the other symbols of the Culture, Alchemy and Kabbala, the Philosophers' 
Stone, the Holy Scriptures, the Arabesque, the inner form of the tales of the 
"Thousand and One Nights." The gleaming gold takes away from the scene, 
the life and the body their substantial being. Everything that was taught in 
the circle of Plotinus or by the Gnostics as to the nature of things, their in- 
dependence of space, their accidental causes — notions paradoxical and almost 
unintelligible to our world-feeling — is implicit also in the symbolism of this 
mysterious hieratic background. The nature of bodies was a principal subject 
of controversy amongst Neo-Pythagoreans and Neo-Platonists, as it was later 
in the schools of Baghdad and Basra. Suhrawardi distinguishes extension, as 
the primary existence of the body, from width and height and depth as its acci- 
dents. Nafcfcam pronounced against the corporeal substantiality and space-fill- 
ing character of the atom. These and the like were the metaphysical notions 
that, from Philo and Paul to the last great names of the Islamic philosophy, 
manifested the Arabian world-feeling. They played a decisive part in the dis- 
putes of the Councils upon the substantiality of Christ. 2 And thus the gold 
background possesses, in the iconography of the Western Church, an explicit 
dogmatic significance. It is an express assertion of the existence and activity of 
the divine spirit. It represents the Arabian form of the Christian world-con- 
sciousness, and with such a deep appropriateness that for a thousand years this 
treatment of the background was held to be the only one metaphysically — and 
even ethically — possible and seemly in representations of the Christian legend. 
When "natural" backgrounds, with their blue-green heavens, far horizons and 
depth perspective, began to appear in early Gothic, they had at first the appear- 
ance of something profane and worldly. The change of dogma that they implied 
was, if not acknowledged, at any rate felt, witness the tapestry backgrounds 
with which the real depth of space was covered up by a pious awe that disguised 
what it dared not exhibit. We have seen how just at this time, when the 
Faustian (German-Catholic) Christianity attained to consciousness of itself 
through the institution of the sacrament of Contrition — a new religion in the 
old garb — the tendency to perspective, colour, and the mastering of aerial 

1 The brilliant polish of the stone in Egyptian art has a deep symbolic significance of much the 
same kind. Its effect is to dematerialize the statue by causing the eye to glide along its exterior. 
Hellas on the contrary manifests, by its progress from "Poros" stone, through Naxian, to the 
translucent Parian and Pentelic marbles, how determined it is that the look shall sink right into the 
material essence of the body. 

2 See Vol. II, pp. 314 ct scq. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 249 

space in the art of the Franciscans 1 transformed the whole meaning of 
painting. 

The Christianity of the West is related to that of the East as the symbol of 
perspective to the symbol of gold-ground — and the final schism took place 
almost at the same moment in Church and in Art. The landscape-background 
of the depicted scene and the dynamic infiniteness of God were comprehended at 
the same moment; and, simultaneously with the gold ground of the sacred 
picture, there vanished from the Councils of the West that Magian, ontological 
problem of Godhead which had so passionately agitated Nicasa, Ephesus, 
Chalcedon and all the Councils of the East. 



The Venetians discovered, and introduced into oil-painting as a space- 
forming and quasi-musical motive, the handwriting of the visible brush-stroke. 
The Florentine masters had never at any time challenged the fashion — would- 
be Classical and yet in Gothic employ — of smoothing out all turns of the 
brush so as to produce pure, cleanly-outlined and even colour-surfaces. In 
consequence, their pictures have a certain air of being, something felt, un- 
mistakably, as the opposite of the inherent motion-quality of the Gothic 
expression-means that were storming in from over the Alps. The 15th-century 
manner of applying colour is a denial of past and future. It is only in the 
brushwork, which remains permanently visible and, in a way, perennially 
fresh, that the historical feeling comes out. Our desire is to see in the work of 
the painter not merely something that has become but something that is becoming. 
And this is precisely what the Renaissance wanted to avoid. A piece of Peru- 
gino drapery tells us nothing of its artistic origin; it is ready-made, given, 
simply present. But the individual brush-strokes — first met with as a com- 
plete new form-language in the later work of Titian — are accents of a per- 
sonal temperament, characteristic in the orchestra-colours of Monteverde, 
melodically-flowing as a contemporary Venetian madrigal: streaks and dabs, 
immediately juxtaposed, cross one another, cover one another, entangle one 
another, and bring unending movement into the plain element of colour. Just 
so the geometrical Analysis of the time made its objects become instead of being. 
Every painting has in its execution a history and does not disguise it; and a 
Faustian who stands before it feels that he too has a spiritual evolution. Before 
any great landscape by a Baroque master, the one word " historical* ' is enough 
to make us feel that there is a meaning in it wholly alien to the meaning of an 
Attic statue. As other melody, so also this of the restless outlineless brush- 
stroke is part of the dynamic stability of the universe of eternal Becoming, 
directional Time, and Destiny. The opposition of painting-style and drawing- 

1 The life and teaching of St. Francis were, morally and aesthetically alike, the centres of in- 
spiration for Cimabue, Giotto and the Italian Gothic generally. — 2>. 



x5o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

style is but a particular aspect of the general opposition of historical and 
ahistorical form, of assertion and denial of inner development, of eternity and 
instantaneity. A Classical art-work is an event, a Western is a deed. The one 
symbolizes the here-and-now point, the other the living course. And the 
physiognomy of this script of the brush — an ornamentation that is entirely 
new, infinitely rich and personal, and peculiar to the Western Culture — is 
purely and simply musical. It is no mere conceit to compare the allegro feroce of 
Frans Hals with the andante con moto of Van Dyck, or the minor of Guercino 
with the major of Velasquez. Henceforward the notion of temp is comprised in 
the execution of a painting and steadily reminds us that this art is the art of a 
soul which, in contrast to the Classical, forgets nothing and will let nothing be 
forgotten that once was. The aery web of brush-strokes immediately dissolves 
the sensible surface of things. Contours melt into chiaroscuro. The beholder 
has to stand a very long way back to obtain any corporeal impression out of 
our coloured space values, and even so it is always the chromatic and active 
air itself that gives birth to the things. 

At the same time with this, there appeared in Western painting another sym- 
bol of highest significance, which subdued more and more the actuality of 
all colour — the "studio-brown" (atelierbraun). This was unknown to the 
early Florentines and the older Flemish and Rhenish masters alike. Pacher, 
Durer, Holbein, passionately strong as their tendency towards spatial depth 
seems, are quite without it, and its reign begins only with the last years of the 
16th Century. This brown does not repudiate its descent from the "infini- 
tesimal" greens of Leonardo's, Schongauer's and Griinewald's backgrounds, 
but it possesses a mightier power over things than they, and it carries the battle 
of Space against Matter to a decisive close. It even prevails over the more 
primitive linear perspective, which is unable to shake off its Renaissance asso- 
ciation with architectural motives. Between it and the Impressionist technique 
of the visible brush-stroke there is an enduring and deeply suggestive connexion. 
Both in the end dissolve the tangible existences of the sense-world — the world 
of moments and foregrounds — into atmospheric semblances. Line disappears 
from the tone-picture. The Magian gold-ground had only dreamed of a mystic 
power that controlled and at will could thrust aside the laws governing cor- 
poreal existence within the world-cavern. But the brown of these pictures 
opened a prospect into an infinity of pure forms. And therefore its discovery 
marks for the Western style a culmination in the process of its becoming. As 
contrasted with the preceding green, this colour has something Protestant in it. It antic- 
ipates the hyperbolic l Northern pantheism of the 18th Century which the 
Archangels voice in the Prologue of Goethe's "Faust." 2 The atmosphere of 
Lear and the atmosphere of Macbeth are akin to it. The contemporary striving 

1 Der nordische im Grenzenlose schweifende Pantheismus. 

2 On the following page is a translation of this chorus. — Tr. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 151 

of instrumental music towards freer and ever freer chromatics (de Rore, Luca' 
Marenzio) and towards the formation of bodies of tone by means of string and 
wind choruses corresponds exactly with the new tendency of oil-painting to 
create -pictorial chromatics out of pure colours, by means of these unlimited brown 
shadings and the contrast-effect of immediately juxtaposed colour-strokes. 
Thereafter both the arts spread through their worlds of tones and colours — 
colour-tones and tone-colours — an atmosphere of the purest spatiality, which 
enveloped and rendered, no longer body — the human being as a shape — but 
the soul unconfined. And thus was attained the inwardness that in the deepest 
works of Rembrandt and of Beethoven is able to unlock the last secrets them- 
selves — the inwardness which Apollinian man had sought with his strictly 
somatic art to keep at bay. 

From now onward, the old foreground-colours yellow and red — the 
Classical tones — are employed more and more rarely and always as deliberate 
contrasts to the distances and depths that they are meant to set off and emphasize 
(Vermeer in particular, besides of course Rembrandt). This atmospheric brown, 
which was entirely alien to the Renaissance, is the unrealest colour that there 
is. It is the one major colour that does not exist in the rainbow. There is white 
light, and yellow and green, and red and other light of the most entire purity. 
But a pure brown light is outside the possibilities of the Nature that we know. 
All the greenish-brown, silvery, moist brown, and deep gold tones that appear 
in their splendid variety with Giorgione, grow bolder and bolder in the great 
Dutch painters and lose themselves towards the end of the 18th Century, have 
the common quality that they strip nature of her tangible actuality. They con- 
tain, therefore, what is almost a religious profession of faith; we feel that here 
we are not very far from Port Royal, from Leibniz. With Constable on the 
other hand — who is the founder of the painting of Civilization — it is a differ- 
ent will that seeks expression; and the very brown that he had learnt from the 
Dutch meant to him not what it had meant to them — Destiny, God, the mean- 
ing of life — but simply romance, sensibility, yearning for something that was 
gone, memorial of the great past of the dying art. In the last German masters too 



Raphael. The Sun outsings the brother-spheres 

in olden rivalry of song, 
and thunder-girt pursues the years 

the preordained path along. 
'Tis from his face the angels gain 

their strength; but scan it no one may. 
Thought is outranged and Works remain 

sublime as on Creation-Day. 

Gabriel. And, swift beyond description, flies 

the circling scene of land and sea, 
in alternance of Paradise 

with dark and awful Mystery. 
The ocean swings, the billows sway, 

back from the cliff the waves are hurled. 
But cliff and waves alike obey 

the mightier movement of the World. 



Michael. And storms arise and swell and ebb 

o'er sea and mountain, lake and field, 
in wild contention weave a web 

of forces purposed though concealed. 
The lightning is thy flaming sword, 

the thunder veils thee on thy way, 
yet ever spare thy envoys, Lord, 

the gentle changing of thy day. 

The Three. Tis from thy face the angels gain 

their strength, but scan it no one may. 
Beyond all thought thy Works remain 
sublime as on Creation-Day. 



i 5 2. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

— Lessing, Marees, Spitzweg, Diez, Leibl l — whose belated art is a romantic 
retrospect, an epilogue, the brown tones appear simply as a precious heirloom. 
Unwilling in their hearts to part with this last relic of the great style, they 
preferred to set themselves against the evident tendency of their generation — 
the soulless and soul-killing generation of -plein-air and Haeckel. Rightly 
understood (as it has never yet been), this battle of Rembrandt-brown and the 
-plein-air of the new school is simply one more case of the hopeless resistance put 
up by soul against intellect and Culture against Civilization, of the opposition 
of symbolic necessary art and megalopolitan "applied" art which affects 
building and painting and sculpture and poetry alike. Regarded thus, the 
significance of the brown becomes manifest enough. When it dies, an entire 
Culture dies with it. 

It was the masters who were inwardly greatest — Rembrandt above all — 
who best understood this colour. It is the enigmatic brown of his most telling 
work, and its origin is in the deep lights of Gothic church-windows and the 
twilight of the high-vaulted Gothic nave. And the gold tone of the great 
Venetians — Titian, Veronese, Palma, Giorgione — is always reminding us of 
that old perished Northern art of glass painting of which they themselves know 
almost nothing. Here also the Renaissance with its deliberate bodiliness of 
colour is seen as merely an episode, an event of the very self-conscious surface, 
and not a product of the underlying Faustian instinct of the Western soul, 
whereas this luminous gold-brown of the Venetian painting links Gothic and 
Baroque, the art of the old glass-painting and the dark music of Beethoven. 
And it coincides precisely in time with the establishment of the Baroque style 
of colour-music by the work of the Netherlanders Willaert and Cyprian de Rore, 
the elder Gabrieli, and the Venetian music-school which they founded. 

Brown, then, became the characteristic colour of the soul, and more particu- 
larly of a historically-disposed soul. Nietzsche has, I think, spoken somewhere 
of the ' ' brown ' ' music of Bizet, but the adjective is far more appropriate" to the 
music which Beethoven wrote for strings 2 and to the orchestration that even 
as late as Bruckner so often fills space with a browny-golden expanse of tone. 
All other colours are relegated to ancillary functions — thus the bright yellow 

1 His portrait of Frau Gcdon, all steeped in brown, is the last Old-Master portrait of the West; 
it is painted entirely in the style of the past. 

2 The strings in the Orchestra represent, as a class, the colours of the distance. The bluish green 
of Watteau is found already in the Neapolitan bel canto of about 1700, in Couperin, in Mozart and 
Haydn; and the brown of the Dutch in Corelli, Handel and Beethoven. The woodwind, too, calls 
up illumined distances. Yellow and red, on the other hand, the colours of nearness, the popular 
colours, arc associated with the brass timbre, the effect of which is corporeal often to the point of 
vulgarity. The tone of an old fiddle is entirely bodiless. It is worth remarking that the Greek music, 
insignificent as it is, underwent an evolution from the Dorian lyre to the Ionian flute (aulos and 
syrinx) and that even in the time of Pericles strict Dorians blamed this as an enervating and lowering 
tendency. 

(The horn is an exception, and is always treated as an exception, to the brass generally. Its place 
is with the woodwind, and its colours are those of the distance. — Tr.") 



THE ARTS OF FORM 153 

and the vermilion of Vermeer intrude with the spatial almost as though from 
another world and with an emphasis that is truly metaphysical, and the 
yellow-green and blood-red lights of Rembrandt seem at most to play with the 
symbolism of space. In Rubens, on the contrary — brilliant performer but no 
thinker — the brown is almost destitute of idea, a shadow-colour. (In him and 
in Watteau, the " Catholic" blue-green disputes precedence with the brown.) 
All this shows how any particular means may, in the hands of men of inward 
depth, become a symbol for the evocation of such high transcendence as that of 
the Rembrandt landscape, while for other great masters it may be merely a 
serviceable technical expedient — or in other words that (as we have already 
seen) technical "form," in the theoretical sense of something opposed to 
"content," has nothing whatever to do with the real and true form of a great 
work. 

I have called brown a historical colour. By this is meant that it makes the 
atmosphere of the pictured space signify directedness and future, and over- 
powers the assertiveness of any instantaneous element that may be represented. 
The other colours of distance have also this significance, and they lead to an 
important, considerable and distinctly bizarre extension of the Western sym- 
bolism. The Hellenes had in the end come to prefer bronze and even gilt- 
bronze to the painted marble, the better to express (by the radiance of this 
phenomenon against a deep blue sky) the idea of the individualness of any 
and every corporeal thing. 1 Now, when the Renaissance dug these statues up, 
it found them black and green with the patina of many centuries. The historic 
spirit, with its piety and longing, fastened on to this — and from that time 
forth our form-feeling has canonized this black and green of distance. To-day 
our eye finds it indispensable to the enjoyment of a bronze — an ironical illus- 
tration of the fact that this whole species of art is something that no longer 
concerns us as such. What does a cathedral dome or a bronze figure mean to 
us without the patina which transmutes the short-range brilliance into the 
tone of remoteness of time and place? Have we not got to the point of arti- 
ficially producing this patina? 2 

But even more than this is involved in the ennoblement of decay to the 
level of an art-means of independent significance. That a Greek would have 
regarded the formation of patina as the ruin of the work, we can hardly doubt. 
It is not merely that the colour green, on account of its " distant " quality, was 
avoided by him on spiritual grounds. Patina is a symbol of mortality and hence 
related in a remarkable way to the symbols of time-measurement and the 

1 The use of gold in this way, viz., to add brilliancy to bodies standing freely in the open, has 
nothing in common with its employment in Magian art to provide glittering backgrounds for figures 
seen in dim interiors. 

a The Chinese also attach enormous importance to the patinas of their old bronzes, which, owing 
to the different alloys used and the strong chemical characters of the soil, are of infinite variety and 
natural intricacy. They too, in later phases, have come to the production of artificial patina. — Tr. 



154 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

funeral rite. We have already in an earlier chapter discussed the wistful regard 
of the Faustian soul for ruins and evidences of the distant past, its proneness to 
the collection of antiquities and manuscripts and coins, to pilgrimages to the 
Forum Romanum and to Pompeii, to excavations and philological studies, 
which appears as early as the time of Petrarch. When would it have occurred 
to a Greek to bother himself with the ruins of Cnossus or Tiryns? * Every Greek 
knew his 4 4 Iliad ' ' but not one ever thought of digging up the hill of Troy. We, 
on the contrary, are moved by a secret piety to preserve the aqueducts of the 
Campagna, the Etruscan tombs, the ruins of Luxor and Karnak, the crumbling 
castles of the Rhine, the Roman Limes, Hersfeld and Paulinzella from becoming 
mere rubbish — but we keep them as ruins, feeling in some subtle way that re- 
construction would deprive them of something, indefinable in terms, that can 
never be reproduced. 2 Nothing was further from the Classical mind than this 
reverence for the weather-beaten evidences of a once and a formerly. It cleared 
out of sight everything that did not speak of the present; never was the old 
preserved because it was old. After the Persians had destroyed old Athens, the 
citizens threw columns, statues, reliefs, broken or not, over the Acropolis wall, 
in order to start afresh with a clean slate — and the resultant scrap-heaps have 
been our richest sources for the art of the 6th Century. Their action was quite 
in keeping with the style of a Culture that raised cremation to the rank of a 
major symbol and refused with scorn to bind daily life to a chronology. Our 
choice has been, as usual, the opposite. The heroic landscape of the Claude 
Lorrain type is inconceivable without ruins. The English park with its atmos- 
pheric suggestion, which supplanted the French about 1750 and abandoned 
the great perspective idea of the latter in favour of the " Nature" of Addison, 
Pope and sensibility, introduced into its stock of motives perhaps the most 
astonishing bizarrerie ever perpetrated, the artificial ruin, in order to deepen 
the historical character in the presented landscape. 8 The Egyptian Culture 
restored the works of its early period, but it would never have ventured to build 
ruins as the symbols of the past. Again, it is not the Classical statue, but the 
Classical torso that we really love. It has had a destiny: something suggestive 
of the past as past envelops it, and our imagination delights to fill the empty 

1 Pausanias, it should be observed, was neither by date nor by origin a Greek. — Tr. 

2 "In places, as you stand on it, the great towered and embattled enceinte produces an illusion: 
it looks as if it were still equipped and defended. One vivid challenge at any rate it flings down 
before you; it compels you to make up your mind on the matter of restoration. For myself, I have no 
hesitation; I prefer in every case the ruined, however ruined, to the reconstructed however splen- 
did. . . » After that, I am free to say that the restoration of Carcassonne is a splendid achievement." 
(Henry James, "A Little Tour in France," xxiii.) Yet if ever there was a reconstruction carried out 
with piety and scholarship as well as skill, it was Viollet-le-Duc's reconstruction of these old town- 
walls. — Tr. 

8 Home, an English philosopher of the 18th Century, declared in a lecture on English parks that 
Gothic ruins represented the triumph of time over power, Classical ruins that of barbarism over taste. 
It was that age that first discovered the beauty of the ruin-studded Rhine, which was thenceforward 
the historic river of the Germans. 



THE ARTS OF FORM 155 

space of missing limbs with the pulse and swing of invisible lines. A good 
restoration — and the secret charm of endless possibilities is all gone. I ven- 
ture to maintain that it is only by way of this transposition into the musical that 
the remains of Classical sculpture can really reach us. The green bronze, the 
blackened marble, the fragments of a figure abolish for our inner eye the limi- 
tations of time and space. " Picturesque" this has been called — the brand- 
new statue and building and the too-well-groomed park are not picturesque 
— and the word is just to this extent, that the deep meaning of this weather- 
ing is the same as that of the studio-brown. But, at bottom, what both express 
is the spirit of instrumental music. Would the Spearman of Polycletus, stand- 
ing before us in flashing bronze and with enamel eyes and gilded hair, affect 
us as it does in the state of blackened age? Would not the Vatican torso of 
Heracles lose its mighty impressiveness if, one fine day, the missing parts were 
discovered and replaced? And would not the towers and domes of our old 
cities lose their deep metaphysical charm if they were sheathed in new copper? 
Age, for us as for the Egyptian, ennobles all things. For Classical man, it 
depreciates them. 

Lastly, consider Western tragedy; observe how the same feeling leads it to 
prefer " historical* ' material — meaning thereby not so much demonstrably 
actual or even possible, but remote and crusted subjects. That which the Faustian 
soul wanted, and must have, could not be expressed by any event of purely 
momentary meaning, lacking in distance of time or place, or by a tragic art 
of the Classical kind, or by a timeless myth. Our tragedies, consequently, are 
tragedies of the past and of the future — the latter category, in which men yet 
to be are shown as carriers of a Destiny, is represented in a certain sense by 
" Faust," "Peer Gynt" and the " Gotterdammerung. " But tragedies of the 
present we have not, 2Lpa,rt from the trivial social drama of the 19th Century. 1 
If Shakespeare wanted on occasion to express anything of importance in the 
present, he at least removed the scene of it to some foreign land — Italy for 
preference — in which he had never been, and German poets likewise take 
England or France — always for the sake of getting rid of that nearness of time 
and place which the Attic drama emphasized even in the case of a mythological 
subject. 

1 English readers will very likely think of the case of Shaw's "Back to Methuselah," with its 
extreme contrast of the cheaply-satirical present-day scene and the noble and tragic scenes of far past 
and far future. — Tr. 



CHAPTER VIII 
MUSIC AND PLASTIC 

II 
ACT AND PORTRAIT 



CHAPTER VIII 

MUSIC AND PLASTIC 

II 
ACT AND PORTRAIT 



The Classical has been characterized as a culture of the Body and the Northern 
as a culture of the Spirit, and not without a certain arriere-pensee of disprizing 
the one in favour of the other. Though it was mainly in trivialities that 
Renaissance taste made its contrasts between Classical and Modern, Pagan and 
Christian, yet even this might have led to decisive discoveries if only men 
had seen how to get behind formula to origins. 

If the environment of a man (whatever else it may be) is with respect to him 
a macrocosm with respect to a microcosm, an immense aggregate of symbols, 
then the man himself, in so far as he belongs to the fabric of actuality, in so 
far as he is phenomenal, must be comprised in the general symbolism. But, in 
the impress of him made upon men like himself, what is it that possesses the 
force of Symbol, viz., the capacity of summing within itself and intelligibly 
presenting the essence of that man and the signification of his being? Art gives 
the answer. 

But this answer is necessarily different in different Cultures. As each lives 
differently, so each is differently impressed by Life. For the mode of human 
imagining — metaphysical, ethical, artistic imagining alike — it is more than 
important, it is determinant that the individual feels himself as a body amongst 
bodies or, on the contrary, as a centre in endless space; that he subtilizes his 
ego into lone distinctness or, on the contrary, regards it as substantially part of 
the general consensus, that the directional character is asserted or, on the con- 
trary, denied in the rhythm and course of his life. In all these ways the prime- 
symbol of the great Culture comes to manifestation: this is indeed a world- 
feeling, but the life-ideal conforms to it. From the Classical ideal followed 
unreserved acceptance of the sensuous instant, from the Western a not less 
passionate wrestle to overcome it. The Apollinian soul, Euclidean and point- 
formed, felt the empirical visible body as the complete expression of its own 
way of being; the Faustian, roving into all distances, found this expression not 
in person, <r&fia, but in personality, character, call it what you will. "Soul" for 
the real Hellene was in last analysis the form of his body — and thus Aristotle 

2.59 



z6o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

defined it. "Body" for Faustian man was the vessel of the soul — and thus 
Goethe felt it. 

But the result of this is that Culture and Culture differ very greatly in their 
selection and formation of their humane arts. While Gluck expresses the woe 
of Armida by a melody combined with drear gnawing tones in the instrumental 
accompaniment, the same is achieved in Pergamene sculptures by making every 
muscle speak. The Hellenistic portraiture tries to draw a spiritual type in the 
structure of its heads. In China the heads of the Saints of Ling-yan-si tell of a 
wholly personal inner life by their look and the play of the corners of the 
mouth. 

The Classical tendency towards making the body the sole spokesman is 
emphatically not the result of any carnal overload in the race (to the man of 
aaxfrpoavvr) wantonness was not permitted *)> it was not, as Nietzsche thought, 
an orgiastic joy of untrammelled energy and perfervid passion. This sort of 
thing is much nearer to the ideals of Germanic-Christian or of Indian chivalry. 
What Apollinian man and Apollinian art can claim as their very own is simply 
the apotheosis of the bodily phenomenon, taking the word perfectly literally — 
the rhythmic proportioning of limbs and harmonious build of muscles. This 
is not Pagan as against Christian, it is Attic as against Baroque; for it was 
Baroque mankind (Christian or unbeliever, monk or rationalist) that first 
utterly put away the cult of the palpable aco/xa, carrying its alienation indeed to 
the extremes of bodily uncleanliness that prevailed in the entourage of 
Louis XIV, 2 whose full wigs and lace cuffs and buckled shoes covered up Body 
with a whole web of ornament. 

Thus the Classical plastic art, after liberating the form completely from 
the actual or imaginary back-wall and setting it up in the open, free and 
unrelated, to be seen as a body among bodies, moved on logically till 
the naked body became its only subject. And, moreover, it is unlike every 
other kind of sculpture recorded in art-history in that its treatment of 
the bounding surfaces of this body is anatomically convincing. Here is the 
Euclidean world-principle carried to the extreme; any envelope whatever 
would have been in contradiction, however slightly, with the Apollinian 
phenomenon, would have indicated, however timidly, the existence of the 
circum-space. 

In this art, what is ornamental in the high sense resides entirely in the pro- 
portions of the structure 3 and the equivalence of the axes in respect of support 
and load. Standing, sitting, lying down but always self-secure, the body has, 

1 One need only contrast the Greek artist with Rubens and Rabelais. 

2 Of whom one of his mistresses remarked that he "smelt like a carcass " (qu'il puait comme une 
charogne). Note also how the musician generally has a reputation for uncleanliness. 

8 From the solemn canon of Polycletus to the elegance of Lysippus the same process of lightening 
is going on in the body-build as that which brought the column from the Doric to the Corinthian 
order. The Euclidean feeling was beginning to relax. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT z6i 

like the peripteros, no interior, that is, no "soul." The significance of the 
muscle-relief, carried out absolutely in the round, is the same as that of the self- 
closing array of the columns; both contain the whole of the form-language of 
the work. 

It was a strictly metaphysical reason, the need of a supreme life-symbol for 
themselves, that brought the later Hellenes to this art, which under all the 
consummate achievement is a narrow one. It is not true that this language 
of the outer surface is the completest, or the most natural, or even the most 
obvious mode of representing the human being. Quite the contrary. If the 
Renaissance, with its ardent theory and its immense misconception of its own 
tendency, had not continued to dominate our judgment — long after the plastic 
art itself had become entirely alien to our inner soul — we should not have 
waited till to-day to observe this distinctive character of the Attic style. No 
Egyptian or Chinese sculptor ever dreamed of using external anatomy to ex- 
press his meaning. In Gothic image-work a language of the muscles is unheard 
of. The human tracery that clothes the mighty Gothic framework with a web 
of countless figures and reliefs (Chartres cathedral has more than ten thousand 
such) is not merely ornament; as early as about iioo it is employed for the 
expression of schemes and purposes far grander than even the grandest of Clas- 
sical plastic. For these masses of figures constitute a tragic unit. Here, by the 
North even earlier than by Dante, the historical feeling of the Faustian soul — 
of which the deep sacrament of Contrition is the spiritual expression and the 
rite of Confession the grave teacher — is intensified to the tragic fullness of a 
world-drama. That which Joachim of Floris, at this very time, was seeing in 
his Apulian cell — the picture of the world, not as Cosmos, but as a Divine 
History and succession of three world-ages x — the craftsmen were expressing 
at Reims, Amiens and Paris in serial presentation of it from the Fall to the Last 
Judgment. Each of the scenes, each of the great symbolic figures, had its sig- 
nificant place in the sacred edifice, each its r61e in the immense world-poem. 
Then, too, each individual man came to feel how his life-course was fitted as 
ornament in the plan of Divine history, and to experience this personal connex- 
ion with it in the forms of Contrition and Confession. And thus these bodies of 
stone are not mere servants of the architecture. They have a deep and particular 
meaning of their own, the same meaning as the memorial-tomb brings to expres- 
sion with ever-increasing intensity from the Royal Tombs of St. Denis onward; 
they speak of a personality. Just as Classical man properly meant, with his 
perfected working-out of superficial body (for all the anatomical aspiration of 
the Greek artist comes to that in the end), to exhaust the whole essence of the 
living phenomenon in and by the rendering of its bounding surfaces, so Faustian 
man no less logically found the most genuine, the only exhaustive, expres- 
sion of his life-feeling in the Portrait. The Hellenic treatment of the nude is 

1 See p. 19. — Tr. 



2.62. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the great exceptional case; in this and in this only has it led to an art of the 
high order. 1 

Act and 'Portrait have never hitherto been felt as constituting an opposition, 
and consequently the full significance of their appearances in art-history has 
never been appreciated. And yet it is in the conflict of these two form-ideals 
that the contrast of two worlds is first manifested in full. There, on the one 
hand, an existence is made to show itself in the composition of the exterior 
structure; here, on the other hand, the human interior, the Soul, is made to 
speak of itself, as the interior of a church speaks to us through its fagade or 
face. A mosque had no face, and consequently the Iconoclastic movement of 
the Moslems and the Paulicians — which under Leo III spread to Byzantium 
and beyond — necessarily drove the portrait-element quite out of the arts of 
form, so that thenceforward they possessed only a fixed stock of human ara- 
besques. In Egypt the face of the statue was equivalent to the pylon, the face 
of the temple-plan; it was a mighty emergence out of the stone-mass of the 
body, as we see in the "Hyksos Sphinx" of Tanis and the portrait of Amenem- 
het III. In China the face is like a landscape, full of wrinkles and little signs 
that mean something. But, for us, the portrait is musical. The look, the play 
of the mouth, the pose of head and hands — these things are a fugue of the 
subtlest meaning, a composition of many voices that sounds to the understand- 
ing beholder. 

But in order to grasp the significance of the portraiture of the West more 
specifically in contrast with that of Egypt and that of China, we have to con- 
sider the deep change in the language of the West that began in Merovingian 
times to foreshadow the dawn of a new life-feeling. This change extended 
equally over the old German and the vulgar Latin, but it affected only the 
tongues spoken in the countries of the coming Culture (for instance, Norwegian 
and Spanish, but not Rumanian). The change would be inexplicable if we were 
to regard merely the spirit of these languages and their "influence ' ' of one upon 
another; the explanation is in the spirit of the mankind that raised a mere way 
of using words to the level of a symbol. Instead of sum, Gothic im, we say 
ich bin, I am, je suis; instead oifecisti, we say tu habes factum, tu as fait, du habes 
gitdn; and again, da% wip, un homme, man hat. This has hitherto been a riddle 2 
because families of languages were considered as beings, but the mystery is 
solved when we discover in the idiom the reflection of a soul. The Faustian 
soul is here beginning to remould for its own use grammatical material of the 
most varied provenance. The coming of this specific **I" is the first dawning of 

1 In other countries, e.g., old Egypt and Japan (to anticipate a particularly foolish and shallow 
assertion), the sight of naked men was a far more ordinary and commonplace thing than it was in 
Athens, but the Japanese art-lover feels emphasized nudity as ridiculous and vulgar. The act is 
depicted (as for that matter it is in the "Adam and Eve" of Bamberg Cathedral), but merely as an 
object without any significance of potential whatsoever. 

2 Kluge, Deutsche Sprachgesch. (1910), pp. 101 et seq. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 163 

that personality-idea which was so much later to create the sacrament of 
Contrition and personal absolution. This "ego habeo factum," the insertion of 
the auxiliaries "have" and "be" between a doer and a deed, in lieu of the 
"feci" which expresses activated body, replaces the world of bodies by one of 
functions between centres of force, the static syntax by a dynamic. And this 
"I" and "Thou" is the key to Gothic portraiture. A Hellenistic portrait is 
the type of an attitude — a confession it is not, either to the creator of it or to 
the understanding spectator. But our portraits depict something sui generis, 
once occurring and never recurring, a life-history expressed in a moment, a 
world-centre for which everything else is world-around, exactly as the gram- 
matical subject "I" becomes the centre of force in the Faustian sentence. 

It has been shown how the experience of the extended has its origin in the 
living direction, time, destiny. In the perfected "being" of the all-round nude 
body the depth-experience has been cut away, but the "look" of a portrait 
leads this experience into the supersensuous infinite. Therefore the Ancient art 
is an art of the near and tangible and timeless, it prefers motives of brief, brief- 
est, pause between two movements, the last moment before Myron's athlete 
throws the discus, or the first moment after Pasonius's Nike has alighted from 
the air, when the swing of the body is ending and the streaming draperies have 
not yet fallen — attitudes devoid equally of duration and of direction, disen- 
gaged from future and from past. " Veni, vidi, vici" is just such another atti- 
tude. But in "I — came, I — saw, I — conquered" there is a becoming each 
time in the very build of the sentence. 

The depth-experience is a becoming and effects a become, signifies time and 
evokes space, is at once cosmic and historical. Living direction marches to the 
horizon as to the future. As early as 1x30 the Madonna of the St. Anne entrance 
of Notre-Dame dreams of this future: so, later, the Cologne "Madonna with 
the Bean-blossom" of Meister Wilhelm. Long before the Moses of Michel- 
angelo, the Moses of Klaus Suter's well in the Chartreuse of Dijon meditates 
on destiny, and even the Sibyls of the Sistine Chapel are forestalled by those of 
Giovanni Pisano in Sant' Andrea at Pistoia (1300). And, lastly, there are the 
figures on the Gothic tombs — how they rest from the long journey of Destiny 
and how completely they contrast with the timeless grave and gay that is repre- 
sented on the stelas of Attic cemeteries. 1 The Western portraiture is endless in 
every sense, for it begins to wake out of the stone from about ixoo and it has 
become completely music in the 17th Century. It takes its man not as a mere 
centre of the World-as-Nature which as phenomenon receives shape and signi- 
ficance from his being, but, above all, as a centre of the World-as-History. 
The Classical statue is a piece of present "Nature" and nothing besides. The 
Classical poetry is statuary in verse. Herein is the root of our feeling that 
ascribes to the Greek an unreserved devotion to Nature. We shall never en- 
1 A. Conze, Die Attischm Grabreliefs (1893 etc.). 



164 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

tirely shake off the idea that the Gothic style as compared with the Greek is 
"unnatural." Of course it is, for it is more than Nature; only we are unneces- 
sarily loath to realize that it is a deficiency in the Greek that our feeling has 
detected. The Western form-language is richer — portraiture belongs to Na- 
ture and to history. A tomb by one of those great Netherlanders who worked 
on the Royal graves of St. Denis from 1160, a portrait by Holbein or Titian or 
Rembrandt or Goya, is a biography, and a self-portrait is a historical confession. 
To make one's confession is not to avow an act but to lay before the Judge the 
inner history of that act. The act is patent, its roots the personal secret. When 
the Protestant or the Freethinker opposes auricular confession, it never occurs 
to him that he is rejecting merely the outward form of the idea and not the idea 
itself. He declines to confess to the priest, but he confesses to himself, to a 
friend, or to all and sundry. The whole of Northern poetry is one outspoken 
confession. So are the portraits of Rembrandt and the music of Beethoven. 
What Raphael and Calderon and Haydn told to the priests, these men put into 
the language of their works. One who is forced to be silent because the great- 
ness of form that can take in even the ultimate things has been denied him . . . 
goes under like Holderlin. Western man lives in the consciousness of his becom- 
ing and his eyes are constantly upon past and future. The Greek lives point- 
wise, ahistorically, somatically. No Greek would have been capable of a 
genuine self-criticism. As the phenomenon of the nude statue is the com- 
pletely ahistoric copy of a man, so the Western self-portrait is the exact 
equivalent of the "Werther" or "Tasso" autobiography. To the Classical 
both are equally and wholly alien. There is nothing so impersonal as Greek 
art; that Scopas or Polycletus should make an image of himself is something 
quite inconceivable. 

Looking at the work of Phidias, of Polycletus, or of any master later than 
the Persian Wars, do we not see in the doming of the brow, the lips, the set of 
the nose, the blind eyes, the expression of entirely non-personal, plantlike, 
soulless vitality? And may we not ask ourselves whether this is the form- 
language that is capable even of hinting at an inner experience? Michelangelo 
devoted himself with all passion to the study of anatomy, but the phenomenal 
body that he works out is always the expression of the activity of all bones, 
sinews and organs of the inside; without deliberate intention, the living that is 
under the skin comes out in the phenomenon. It is a physiognomy, and not a 
system, of muscles that he calls to life. But this means at once that the per- 
sonal destiny and not the material body has become the starting-point of the 
form-feeling. There is more psychology (and less ' ' Nature * ') in the arm of one 
of his Slaves l than there is in the whole head of Praxiteles's Hermes. 2 Myron's 

1 Louvre. Replicas of the pair in the Vict, and Alb. Museum, London. — Tr. 

2 Olympia — the only unquestioned original that we have from the "great age." References 
would be superfluous, for few, if any, Classical works are better or more widely known. — Tr. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 165 

Discobolus, 1 on the other hand, renders the exterior form purely as itself, with- 
out relation of any sort to the inner organs, let alone to any "soul." One has 
only to take the best work of this period and compare it with the old Egyptian 
statues, say the "Village Sheikh" 2 or King Phiops (Pepi), or again with 
Donatello's "David," 3 to understand at once what it means to recognize a 
body purely with reference to its material boundaries. Everything in a head 
that might allow something intimate or spiritual to become phenomenal the 
Greeks (and markedly this same Myron) most carefully avoid. Once this 
characteristic has struck us, the best heads of the great age sooner or later begin 
to pall. Seen in the perspective of our world-feeling, they are stupid and dull, 
wanting in the biographical element, devoid of any destiny. It was not out of 
caprice that that age objected so strongly to votive images. The statues of 
Olympian victors are representatives of a fighting attitude. Right down to 
Lysippus there is not one single character-head, but only masks. Again, con- 
sidering the figure as a whole, with what skill the Greeks avoid giving any 
impression that the head is the favoured part of the body! That is why these 
heads are so small, so un-significant in their pose, so un-thoroughly modelled. 
Always they are formed as a part of the body like arms and legs, never as the seat 
and symbol of an "1." 

At last, even, we come to regard the feminine (not to say effeminate) look 
of many of these heads of the 5 th, and still more of the 4th, Centuries 4 as the 

— no doubt unintentional — outcome of an effort to get rid of personal char- 
acter entirely. We should probably be justified in concluding that the ideal 
facial type of this art — which was certainly not an art for the people, as the 
later naturalistic portrait-sculpture at once shows — was arrived at by reject- 
ing all elements of an individual or historical character; that is, by steadily 
narrowing down the field of view to the pure Euclidean. 

The portraiture of the great age of Baroque, on the contrary, applies to 
historical distance all those means of pictorial counterpoint that we already 
know as the fabric of their spatial distance — the brown-dipped atmosphere, 
the perspective, the dynamic brush-stroke, the quivering colour-tones and lights 

— and with their aid succeeds in treating body as something intrinsically non- 
material, as the highly expressive envelope of a space-commanding ego. (This 
problem the fresco-technique, Euclidean that it is, is powerless to solve.) The 
whole painting has only one theme, a soul. Observe the rendering of the hands 

1 Of the several copies that have survived, all imperfectly preserved, that in the Palazzo Massimi 
is accounted the best. The restoration which, once seen, convinces, is Professor Furtwangler's 
(shown in Ency. Brit., XI Ed., article Greek Art, fig. 68). — Tr. 

2 A cast of this is in the British Museum (illustrated in the Museum Guide to Egypt. Antiq., 
pi. XXI). — Tr. 

8 In the Bargello, Florence. Replica in Vict, and Alb. Museum, London. — Tr. 

4 The "Apollo with the lyre" at Munich was admired by Winckelmann and his time as a Muse. 
Till quite recently a head of Athene (a copy of Praxiteles) at Bologna passed as that of a general. 
Such errors would be entirely impossible in dealing with a physiognomic art, e.g., Baroque. 



2.66 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

and the brow in Rembrandt (e.g., in the etching of Burgomaster Six or the por- 
trait of an architect at Cassel), and again, even so late, in Mar6es and Leibl 1 
— spiritual to the point of dematerializing them, visionary, lyrical. Compare 
them with the hand and brow of an Apollo or a Poseidon of the Periclean age! 

The Gothic, too, had deeply and sincerely felt this. It had draped body, 
not for its own sake but for the sake of developing in the ornament of the 
drapery a form-language consonant with the language of the head and the hands 
in a fugue of Life. So, too, with the relations of the voices in counterpoint and, 
in Baroque, those of the "continuo" to the upper voices of the orchestra. In 
Rembrandt there is always interplay of bass melody in the costume and motives 
in the head. 

Like the Gothic draped figure, the old Egyptian statue denies the intrinsic 
importance of body. As the former, by treating the clothing in a purely orna- 
mental fashion, reinforces the expressiveness of head and hands, so the latter, 
with a grandeur of idea never since equalled (at any rate in sculpture), holds 
the body — as it holds a pyramid or an obelisk — to a mathematical scheme 
and confines the personal element to the head. The fall of draperies was meant 
in Athens to reveal the sense of the body, in the North to conceal it; in the one 
case the fabric becomes body, in the other it becomes music. And from this 
deep contrast springs the silent battle that goes on in high-Renaissance work 
between the consciously-intended and the unconsciously-insistent ideals of the 
artist, a battle in which the first — anti-Gothic — often wins the superficial, 
but the second — Gothic becoming Baroque — invariably wins the funda- 
mental victory. 

ii 

The opposition of Apollinian and Faustian ideals of Humanity may now be 
stated concisely. Act and Portrait are to one another as body and space, instant 
and history, foreground and background, Euclidean and analytical number, 
proportion and relation. The Statue is rooted in the ground, Music (and the 
Western portrait is music, soul woven of colour-tones) invades and pervades 
space without limit. The fresco-painting is tied to the wall, trained on it, but 
the oil-painting, the 4i picture* ' on canvas or board or other table, is free from 
limitations of place. The Apollinian form-language reveals only the become, 
the Faustian shows above all a becoming. 

It is for this reason that child-portraits and family groups are amongst the 
finest and most intimately right achievements of the Western art. In the Attic 
sculpture this motive is entirely absent, and although in Hellenistic times the 
playful motive of the Cupid or Putto came into favour, it was expressly as a 
being different from the other beings and not at all as a person growing or be- 
coming. The child links past and future. In every art of human representation 
1 In his portrait of Frau Gedon, already alluded to, p. 151. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 2.67 

that has a claim to symbolic import, it signifies duration in the midst of phe- 
nomenal change, the endlessness of Life. But the Classical Life exhausted it- 
self in the completeness of the moment. The individual shut his eyes to time- 
distances; he comprehended in his thought the men like himself whom he saw- 
around him, but not the coming generations; and therefore there has never been 
an art that so emphatically ignored the intimate representation of children as 
the Greek art did. Consider the multitude of child-figures that our own art 
has produced from early Gothic to dying Rococo — and in the Renaissance 
above all — and find if you can in Classical art right down to Alexander one 
work of importance that intentionally sets by the side of the worked-out body 
of man or woman any child-element with existence still before it. 

Endless Becoming is comprehended in the idea of Motherhood, Woman as 
Mother is Time and is Destiny. Just as the mysterious act of depth-experience 
fashions, out of sensation, extension and world, so through motherhood the 
bodily man is made an individual member of this world, in which thereupon 
he has a Destiny. All symbols of Time and Distance are also symbols of ma- 
ternity. Care is the root-feeling of future, and all care is motherly. It expresses 
itself in the formation and the idea of Family and State and in the principle of 
Inheritance which underlies both. Care may be either affirmed or denied — 
one can live care-filled or care-free. Similarly, Time may be looked at in the 
light of eternity or in the light of the instant, and the drama of begetting and 
bearing or the drama of the nursing mother with her child may be chosen as 
the symbol of Life to be made apprehensible by all the means of art. India 
and the Classical took the first alternative, Egypt and the West the second. 1 
There is something of pure unrelated present in the Phallus and the Lingam, 
and in the phenomenon of the Doric column and the Attic statue as well. 
But the nursing Mother points into the future, and she is just the figure that 
is entirely missing in the Classical art. She could not possibly be rendered 
in the style of Phidias. One feels that this form is opposed to the sense of 
the phenomenon. 

But in the religious art of the West, the representation of Motherhood is the 
noblest of all tasks. As Gothic dawns, the Theotokos of the Byzantine changes 
into the Mater Dolorosa, the Mother of God. In German mythology she ap- 
pears (doubtless from Carolingian times only) as Frigga and Frau Holle. The 
same feeling comes out in beautiful Minnesinger fancies like Lady Sun, Lady 
World, Lady Love. The whole panorama of early Gothic mankind is pervaded 
by something maternal, something caring and patient, and Germanic-Catholic 
Christianity — when it had ripened into full consciousness of itself and in one 
impulse settled its sacraments and created its Gothic Style — placed not the 
suffering Redeemer but the suffering Mother in the centre of its world-picture. About 
12.50, in the great epic of statuary of Reims Cathedral, the principa 1 place is the 
1 See p. 136 and also Vol. n, p. 354. 



2.68 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

centre of the main porch, which in the cathedrals of Paris and Amiens was still 
that of Christ, was assigned to the Madonna; and it was about this time, too, 
that the Tuscan school at Arezzo and Siena (Guido da Siena) began to infuse a 
suggestion of mother-love into the conventional Byzantine Theo tokos. And 
after that the Madonnas of Raphael led the way to the purely human type of 
the Baroque, the mother in the sweetheart — Ophelia, Gretchen — whose 
secret reveals itself in the glorious close of Faust II and in its fusion with the 
early Gothic Mary. 

As against these types, the imagination of the Greeks conceived goddesses 
who are either Amazons like Athene or hetserse like Aphrodite. In the root- 
feeling which produced the Classical type of womanhood, fruitfulness has a 
vegetal character — in this connexion as in others the word o-w/xa exhaustively 
expresses the meaning of the phenomenon. Think of the masterpieces of this 
art, the three mighty female bodies of the East Pediment of the Parthenon, 1 and 
compare with them that noblest image of a mother, Raphael's Sistine Madonna. 
In the latter, all bodiliness has disappeared. She is all distance and space. The 
Helen of the "Iliad," compared with Kriemhild, the motherly comrade of 
Siegfried, is a courtesan, while Antigone and Clytsemnestra are Amazons. 
How strangely even iEschylus passes over in silence the mother-tragic in Cly- 
tsemnestra! The figure of Medea is nothing less than the mythic inverse of the 
Faustian "Mater Dolorosa"; her tragic is not one of future or children, it is 
with her lover, the symbol of wholly-present life, that her universe collapses. 
Kriemhild revenges her unborn children — it is this future that has been mur- 
dered in her — but Medea revenges only a past happiness. When the Classical 
sculpture, late art that it is, 2 arrives at secularizing 8 the pictures of the god, 
it creates the antique ideal of female form in a Cnidian Aphrodite — merely a 
very beautiful object, not a character or an ego but a piece of Nature. And in 
the end Praxiteles finds the hardihood to represent a goddess entirely naked. 
This innovation met with severe criticism, for it was felt to be a sign of the 
decline of the Classical world-feeling; suitable as it was to erotic symbolism, it 

1 The so-called "Three Fates" in the British Museum. — Tr. 

2 The Orphic springtime contemplates the Gods and does not see them. See Vol. II, p. 345. 

3 There was indeed a beginning of this in the aristocratic epic of Homer — so nearly akin to the 
courtly narrative art of Boccaccio. But throughout the Classical age strictly religious people felt 
it as a profanation; the worship that shines through the Homeric poems is quite without idolatry, 
and a further proof is the anger of thinkers who, like Heraclitus and Plato, were in close touch with 
the temple tradition. It will occur to the student that the unrestricted handling of even the highest 
divinities in this very late art is not unlike the theatrical Catholicism of Rossini and Liszt, which 
is already foreshadowed in Corelli and Handel and had, earlier even, almost led to the condemnation 
of Church music in 1564. 

(The event alluded to in the last line is the dispute in and after the Council of Trent as to the 
nature and conduct of Church music. If Wagner's suggestion that Pope Marcellus II tried to exclude 
it altogether is exaggerated, it is certain at least that the complaints were deep and powerful, and 
that the Council found it necessary to forbid "unworthy music in the house of God " and to bring the 
subject under the disciplinary control of the Bishops. — Tr.*) 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 169 

was in sharp contradiction with the dignity of the older Greek religion. But 
exactly then, too, a portrait-art ventured to show itself, simultaneously with 
the invention of a form that has never since been forgotten, the bust. Un- 
fortunately (here as elsewhere) art-research has made the mistake of discovering 
in this the beginnings of "the" portrait. In reality, whereas a Gothic 
visage speaks of an individual destiny, and even an Egyptian — in spite of the 
rigid formalism of the figure — has the recognizable traits of the individual 
person (since otherwise it could not serve as dwelling for the higher soul of the 
dead, his Ka) 9 the Greeks developed a taste for typical representations just as 
the contemporary comedy produced standard men and situations, to which any 
names whatever could be affixed. The "portrait" is distinguishable not by 
personal traits but by the label only. This is the general custom amongst 
children and primitive men, and it is connected with name-magic. The name 
serves to capture some essence of what is named and to bind it as an ob- 
ject which thereupon becomes specific for every beholder. The statues of the 
Tyrannicides, 1 the (Etruscan) statues of Kings in the Capitol and the "iconic" 
portraits of victors at Olympia must have been portraits of this sort, viz., not 
likenesses but figures with names. But now, in the later phase, there was an 
additional factor — the tendency of the time towards genre and applied art, 
which produced also the Corinthian column. What the sculptors worked out 
was the types of life's stage, the rjdos which we mistranslate by character but 
which is really the kinds and modes of public behaviour and attitude; thus there 
is "the" grave Commander, "the" tragic poet, "the" passion-torn actor, 
"the" absorbed philospher. Here is the real key to the understanding of the 
celebrated Hellenistic portraiture, for which the quite unjustifiable claim has 
been set up that its products are expressions of a deep spiritual life. It is not of 
much moment whether the work bears the name of someone long dead — the 
Sophocles 2 was sculptured about 340 — or of a living man like the Pericles of 
Cresilas. 3 It was only in the 4th Century that Demetrius of Alopeke began to 
emphasize individual traits in the external build of the man and Lysistratus the 
brother of Lysippus to copy (as Pliny tells us) a plaster-of-paris cast of the 
subject's face without much subsequent modification. And how little such 
portraiture is portraiture in Rembrandt's sense should surely have been obvious 
to anyone. The soul is missing. The brilliant fidelity of Roman busts especially 
has been mistaken for physiognomic depth. But what really distinguishes the 
higher work from this craftsman's and virtuoso's work is an intention that is 
the precise opposite of the artistic intention of a Marees or a Leibl. That is, 
in such work the imporant and significant is not brought out, it is put in. An 

1 Harmodius and Aristogiton. At Naples. Illustrated in Ency. Brit. XI ed., article Greek Art, 
fig. 50. Cast in British Museum. — Tr. 

2 The famous statue now in the Lateran Museum, Rome. — Tr. 

8 See foot-note, p. 130. An antique copy is in the British Museum. — Tr. 



2. 7 o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

example of this is seen in the Demosthenes statue, 1 the artist of which possibly 
saw the orator in life, Here the particulars of the body-surface are emphasized, 
perhaps over-emphasized ("true to Nature/ ' they called this then), but into 
the disposition so conceived he works the character-type of the Serious Orator 
which we meet again on different bases in the portraits of -ffischines and Lysias 
at Naples. That is truth to life, undoubtedly, but it is truth to life as Classical 
man felt it, typical and impersonal. We have contemplated the result with 
our eyes, and have accordingly misunderstood it. 

in 

In the oil-painting age that followed the end of the Renaissance, the depth 
of an artist can be accurately measured by the content of his portraits. To this 
rule there is hardly an exception. All forms in the picture (whether single, 
or in scenes, groups or masses) 2 are fundamentally felt as portraits; whether 
they are meant to be so or not is immaterial, for the individual painter has no 
choice in the matter. Nothing is more instructive than to observe how under 
the hands of a real Faustian man even the Act transforms itself into a portrait- 
study. 3 Take two German masters like Lucas Cranach and Tilmann Riemen- 
schneider who were untouched by any theory and (in contrast to Diirer, whose 
inclination to aesthetic subtlety made him pliant before alien tendencies) 
worked in unqualified naivete. They seldom depict the Act, and when they do 
so, they show themselves entirely unable to concentrate their expression on the 
immediately-present plane-specified bodiliness. The meaning of the human 
phenomenon, and therefore of the representation of it, remains entirely in the 
head, and is consistently physiognomical rather than anatomical. And the 
same may be said of Diirer's Lucrezia, notwithstanding his Italian studies and 
the quite opposite intention. A Faustian act is a contradiction in itself — 
hence the character-heads that we so often see on feeble act-representations (as 
far back as the Job of old French cathedral-sculpture) and hence also the labori- 
ous, forced, equivocal character that arouses our dislike in too manifest efforts 
to placate the Classical ideal — sacrifices offered up not by the soul but by the 
cultivated understanding. In the whole of painting after Leonardo there is not 
one important or distinctive work that derives its meaning from the Euclidean 
being of the nude body. It is mere incomprehension to quote Rubens here, and 
to compre his unbridled dynamism of swelling bodies in any respect whatever 
with the art of Praxiteles and even Scopas. It is owing precisely to his splendid 
sensuality that he is so far from the static of Signorelli's bodies. If there ever 
was an artist who could put a maximum of " becoming* * into the beauty of 

1 In the Vatican Museum. — Tr. 

2 Even the landscape of the Baroque develops from composed backgrounds to portraits of 
definite localities, representations of the soul of these localities which are thus endowed with faces. 

8 It could be said of Hellenistic portrait art that it followed exactly the opposite course. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT i 7 i 

naked bodies, who could treat bodily floridness historically and convey the 
(utterly un-Hellenic) idea of an inexhaustible outflowing from within, it was 
Rubens. Compare the horse's head from the Parthenon pediment 1 with his 
horses' heads in the Battle of the Amazons, 2 and the deep metaphysical contrast 
between the two conceptions of the same phenomenal element is felt at once. 
In Rubens (recalling once more the characteristic opposition of Apollinian and 
Faustian mathematics) the body is not magnitude but relation. What matters 
is not the regimen of its external structure but the fullness of life that streams 
out of it and the stride of its life along the road from youth to age, where the 
Last Judgment that turns bodies into flames takes up the motive and intertwines 
it in the quivering web of active space. Such a synthesis is entirely un-Classical; 
but even nymphs, when it is Corot who paints them, are likewise shapes 
ready to dissolve into colour-patches reflecting endless space. Such was not the 
intention of the Classical artist when he depicted the Act. 

At the same time, the Greek form-ideal — the self-contained unit of being 
expressed in sculpture — has equally to be distinguished from that of the 
merely beautiful bodies on which painters from Giorgione to Boucher were 
always exercising their cleverness, which are fleshly still-life, genre-work 
expressing merely a certain gay sensuousness (e.g., "Rubens's wife in a fur 
cloak." 8 ) and in contrast with the high ethical significance of the Classical 
Act have almost no symbolic force. 4 Magnificent as these men's painting is, 
therefore, they have not succeeded in reaching the highest levels either of 
portraiture or of space-representation in landscape. Their brown and their 
green and their perspective lack "religiousness," future, Destiny. They are 
masters only in the domain of elementary form, and when it has actualized this 
their art is exhausted. It is they who constitute the substance-element in the 
development-history of a great art. But when a great artist pressed on beyond 
them to a form that was to be capable of embracing the whole meaning of the 
world, he had necessarily to push to perfection the treatment of the nude 
body if his world was the Classical, and not to do so if it was our North. 
Rembrandt never once painted an Act, in this foreground sense, and if 
Leonardo, Titian, Velasquez (and, among moderns, Menzel, Leibl, Mar6es 
and Manet) did so at all, it was very rarely; and even then, so to say, they 
painted bodies as landscapes. The portrait is ever the touchstone. 5 

But no one would ever judge masters like Signorelli, Mantegna, Botticelli 
or even Verrocchio, by the quality of their portraits. The equestrian statue of 

1 British Museum. — Tr. 2 Pinakothek, Munich. — Tr. 

» Art Gallery, Vienna. — Tr. 

4 Nothing more clearly displays the decadence of Western art since the middle of the 19th cen- 
tury than its absurd rendering of acts by masses; the deeper meaning of act-study and the importance 
of the motive have been entirely forgotten. 

6 By that test Rubens, and, among moderns, especially Feuerbach and Bocklin, lose, while 
Goya, Daumier, and, in Germany, Oldach, Wasmann Rayski and many another almost forgowea 
artist of the earlier 19th Century, gain. And MarSes passes to the rank of the very greatest. 



x 7 2. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Can Grande 1 of 1330 is in a far higher sense a portrait than the Bartolommeo 
Colleoni is; and Raphael's portraits (the best of which e.g., Pope Julius II were 
done under the influence of the Venetian Sebastian del Piombo), could be 
ignored altogether in an appreciation of his creative work. It is only with 
Leonardo that the portrait begins to count seriously. Between fresco-tech- 
nique and oil-painting there is a subtle opposition. In fact, Giovanni Bellini's 
44 Doge* ' (Loredano) 2 is the first great oil-portrait. Here too the character of 
the Renaissance as a protest against the Faustian spirit of the West betrays 
itself. The episode of Florence amounts to an attempt to replace the Portrait 
of the Gothic style (as distinct from the 44 ideal' ' portrait of late-Classical art, 
which was well known through the Caesar-busts) by the Act as human symbol. 
Logically, therefore, the entire art of the Renaissance should be wanting in the 
physiognomic traits. And yet the strong undercurrent of Faustian art-will kept 
alive, not only in the smaller towns and schools of middle Italy, but also in the 
instincts of the great masters themselves, a Gothic tradition that was never 
interrupted. Nay, the physiognomic of Gothic art even made itself master of 
the Southern nude body, alien as this element was. Its creations are not bodies 
that speak to us through static definition of their bounding surfaces. What 
we see is a dumb-show that spreads from the face over all parts of the body, and 
the appreciative eye detects in this very nudity of Tuscany a deep identity with 
the drapry of the Gothic. Both are envelopes, neither a limitation. The re- 
clining nude figures of Michelangelo in the Medici chapel are wholly and 
entirely the visage and the utterance of a soul. But, above all, every head, 
painted or modelled, became of itself a portrait, even when the heads were of 
gods or saints. The whole of the portrait-work of A. Rossellino, Donatello, 
Benedetto de Maiano, Mino da Fiesole, stands so near in spirit to that of 
Van Eyck, Memlinc and the Early Rhenish masters as to be often indistinguish- 
able from theirs. There is not and there cannot be, I maintain, any genuine 
Renaissance portraiture, that is, a portraiture in which just that artistic senti- 
ment which differentiates the Court of the Palazzo Strozzi from the Loggia dei 
Lanzi and Perugino from Cimabue applies itself to the rendering of a visage. 
In architecture, little as the new work was Apollinian in spirit, it was possible 
to create anti-Gothically, but in portraiture — no. It was too specifically 
Faustian a symbol. Michelangelo declined the task: passionately devoted as 
he was to his pursuit of a plastic ideal, he would have considered it an abdi- 
cation to busy himself with portraiture. His Brutus bust is as little of a por- 
trait as his de' Medici, whereas Botticelli's portrait of the latter is actual, 
and frankly Gothic to boot. Michelangelo's heads are allegories in the style 
of dawning Baroque, and their resemblance even to Hellenistic work is only 
superficial. And however highly we may value the Uzzano bust of Donatello 3 

1 Tombs of the Scaligers, Verona. — Tr. 2 National Gallery, London. — Tr. 

8 Musco Nazionale, Florence. — Tr* / 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 273 

— which is perhaps the most important achievement of that age and that 
circle — it will be admitted that by the side of the portraits of the Venetians 
it hardly counts. 

It is well worth noting that this overcoming of, or at least this desire to 
overcome, the Gothic portrait with the Classical Act — the deeply historical 
and biographical form by the completely ahistoric — appears simultaneously 
with, and in association with, a decline in the capacity for self-examination and 
artistic confession in the Goethian sense. The true Renaissance man did not 
know what spiritual development meant. He managed to live entirely out- 
wardly, and this was the great good fortune and success of the Quattrocento. 
Between Dante's "Vita Nuova" and Michelangelo's sonnets there is no poetic 
confession, no self-portrait of the high order. The Renaissance artist and 
humanist is the one single type of Western man for whom the word "loneli- 
ness" remained unmeaning. His life accomplished its course in the light of a 
courtly existence. His feelings and impressions were all public, and he had 
neither secret discontents nor reserves, while the life of the great contemporary 
Netherlanders, on the contrary, moved on in the shadow of their works. Is it 
perhaps permissible to add that it was because of this that that other symbol of 
historic distance, duration, care and ponderation, the State, also disappeared 
from the purview of the Renaissance, between Dante and Michelangelo? In 
"fickle Florence" — whose great men one and all were cruelly maltreated and 
whose incapacity for political creation seems, by the side of other Western 
state-forms, to border on sheer bi%arrerie — and, more generally, wherever the 
anti-Gothic (which in this connexion means anti-dynastic) spirit displayed 
itself vigorously in art and public life, the State made way for a truly Hellenic 
sorriness of Medicis, Sforzas, Borgias, Malatestas, and waste republics. Only 
that city where sculpture gained no foothold, where the Southern music was 
at home, where Gothic and Baroque joined hands in Giovanni Bellini and the 
Renaissance remained an affair of occasional dilettantism, had an art of por- 
traiture and therewith a subtle diplomacy and a will to political duration — 
Venice. 



IV 



The Renaissance was born of defiance, and therefore it lacked depth, width 
and sureness of creative instinct. It is the one and only epoch which was more 
consistent in theory than in performance and — in sharp contrast to Gothic and 
Baroque — the only one in which theoretically-formulated intention preceded 
(often enough surpassed) the ability to perform. But the fact that the individ- 
ual arts were forced to become satellites of a Classicist sculpture could not in 
the last analysis alter the essence of them, and could only impoverish their 
store of inward possibilities. For natures of medium size, the Renaissance 
theme was not too big; it was attractive indeed from its very plainness, and 



3L 7 4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

we miss consequently that Gothic wrestling with overpowering imprecise prob- 
lems which distinguishes the Rhenish and Flemish schools. The seductive ease 
and clarity of the Renaissance rests very largely upon evasion — the evasion of 
deeper reluctances by the aid of speciously simple rule. To men of the inward- 
ness of Memlinc or the power of Griinewald such conditions as those of the 
Tuscan form-world would have been fatal. They could not have developed 
their strength in and through it, but only against it. Seeing as we do no weak- 
ness in the form of the Renaissance masters, we are very prone to overrate their 
humanity. In Gothic, and again in Baroque, an entirely great artist was ful- 
filling his art in deepening and completing its language, but in Renaissance he 
was necessarily only destroying it. 

So it was in the cases of Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo, the only 
really great men of Italy after Dante. Is it not curious that between the mas- 
ters of the Gothic — who were nothing but silent workers in their art and yet 
achieved the very highest that could be achieved within its convention and its 
field — and the Venetians and Dutch of 1600 — who again were purely workers 
— there should be these three men who were not "sculptors" or "painters" 
but thinkers, and thinkers who of necessity busied themselves not merely with 
all the available means of artistic expression but with a thousand other things 
besides, ever restless and dissatisfied, in their effort to get at the real essence 
and aim of their being? Does it not mean — that in the Renaissance they could 
not "find themselves"? Each in his own fashion, each under his own tragic 
illusion, these three giants strove to be "Classical" in the Medicean sense; and 
yet it was they themselves who in one and another way — Raphael in respect 
of the line, Leonardo in respect of the surface, Michelangelo in respect of the 
body — shattered the dream. In them the misguided soul is finding its way 
back to its Faustian starting-points. What they intended was to substitute pro- 
portion for relation, drawing for light-and-air effect, Euclidean body for pure 
space. But neither they nor others of their time produced a Euclidean-static 
sculpture — for that was possible once only, in Athens. In all their work one 
feels a secret music, in all their forms the movement-quality and the tending into 
distances and depths. They are on the way, not to Phidias but to Palestrina, 
and they have come thither not from Roman ruins but from the still music of 
the cathedral. Raphael thawed the Florentine fresco, and Michelangelo the 
statue, and Leonardo dreamed already of Rembrandt and Bach. The higher and 
more conscientious the effort to actualize the ideas of the age, the more in- 
tangible it became. 

Gothic and Baroque, however, are something that is, while Renaissance is 
only an ideal, unattainable like all ideals, that floats over the will of a period. 
Giotto is a Gothic, and Titian is a Baroque, artist. Michelangelo would be a 
Renaissance artist, but fails. Visibly, the plastic in him, for all its ambitious- 
ness, is overpowered by the pictorial spirit — and a pictorial spirit, too, in 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 2.75 

which the Northern space-perspective is implicit. Even as soon as 152.0 the 
beautiful proportion, the pure rule — that is, the conscious Classical — are 
felt as frigid and formal. The cornice which he put on to Sangallo's purely 
"Classical" fagade of the Palazzo Farnese was no doubt, from the strictly 
Renaissance standpoint, a disfigurement, but he himself and many with him 
felt it to be far superior to the achievements of Greeks and Romans. 

As Petrarch was the first, so Michelangelo was the last Florentine who gave 
himself up passionately to the Antique. But it was no longer an entire devotion. 
The Franciscan Christianity of Fra Angelico, with its subtle gentleness and its 
quiet, reflective piety — to which the Southern refinement of ripe Renaissance 
work owes far more than has been supposed * — came now to its end. The 
majestic spirit of the Counter-Reformation, massive, animated, gorgeous, lives 
already in Michelangelo. There is something in Renaissance work which at 
the time passed for being " Classical* ' but is really only a deliberately noble 
dress for the Christian-German world-feeling; as we have already mentioned, 
the combination of round-arch and pillar, that favourite Florentine motive, was 
of Syrian origin. But compare the pseudo-Corinthian column of the 15th Cen- 
tury with the columns of a real Roman ruin — remembering that these ruins 
were known and on the spot! Michelangelo alone would tolerate no half-and- 
half. Clarity he wanted and he would have. The question of form was for him 
a religious matter; for him (and only for him) it was all or nothing. And this 
is the explanation of the lonely fearful wrestlings of this man, surely the un- 
happiest figure in our art; of the fragmentary, the tortured, the unsatisfied, the 
terribile in his forms that frightened his contemporaries. The one half of his 
nature drew him towards the Classical and therefore to sculpture — we all 
know the effect produced upon him by the recently-discovered Laocoon. No 
man ever made a more honest effort than he did to find a way with the chisel 
into a buried world. Everything that he created he meant sculpturally — sculp- 
turally, that is, in a sense of the word that he and he alone stood for. "The 
world, presented in the great Pan," the element which Goethe meant to render 
when he brought Helena into the Second Part of Faust, the Apollinian world in 
all its powerful sensuous corporal presence — that was what Michelangelo was 
striving with all his might to capture and to fix in artistic being when he was 
painting the Sistine ceiling. Every resource of fresco — the big contours, the 
vast surfaces, the immense nearness of naked shapes, the materiality of colour 

1 It is the same "noble simplicity and quiet greatness" — to speak in the language of the 
German Classicists — that produces such an impression of the antique in the Romanesque of Hilde- 
sheim, Gernrode, Paulinzella and Hersfeld. The ruined cloisters of Paulinzella, in fact, have much 
of what Brunellesco so many centuries later strove to obtain in his palace-courts. But the basic feel- 
ing that underlies these creations is not something which we got from the Classical, but something 
that we projected on to our own notion of Classical being. And our own notion of peace is one of an 
infinite peace. We feel the "Rest in God" to be an expanse of quietude. All Florentine work, in so 
far as sureness does not turn into the Gothic challenge of Verrocchio, is characterized by this fesl- 
ing, with which Attic auxfrpoobvy has nothing whatever in common. 



276 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

— was here for the last time strained to the utmost to liberate the paganism, 
the high-Renaissance paganism, that was in him. But his second soul, the 
soul of Gothic-Christian Dante and of the music of great expanses, is pulling 
in the opposite sense; his scheme for the ensemble is manifestly metaphysical in 
spirit. 

His was the last effort, repeated again and again, to put the entirety of the 
artist-personality into the language of stone. But the Euclidean material 
failed him. His attitude to it was not that of the Greek. In the very character 
of its being the chiselled statue contradicts the world-feeling that tries to find 
something by, and not to possess something in, its art-works. For Phidias, 
marble is the cosmic stuff that is crying for form. The story of Pygmalion and 
Galatea expresses the very essence of that art. But for Michelangelo marble 
was the foe to be subdued, the prison out of which he must deliver his idea as 
Siegfried delivered Brunhilde. Everyone knows his way of setting to work. 
He did not approach the rough block coolly from every aspect of the intended 
form, but attacked it with a passionate frontal attack, hewing into it as though 
into space, cutting away the material layer by layer and driving deeper and 
deeper until his form emerged, while the members slowly developed themselves 
out of the quarry. Never perhaps has there been a more open expression of 
world-dread in the presence of the become — Death — of the will to overpower 
and capture it in vibrant form. There is no other artist of the West whose rela- 
tion to the stone has been that of Michelangelo — at once so intimate and so 
violently masterful. It is his symbol of Death. In it dwells the hostile princi- 
ple that his daemonic nature is always striving to overpower, whether he is 
cutting statues or piling great buildings out of it. l He is the one sculptor of his 
age who dealt only with marble. Bronze, as cast, allows the modeller to com- 
promise with pictorial tendencies, and it appealed therefore to other Renaissance 
artists and to the softer Greeks. The Giant stood aloof from it. 

The instantaneous bodily posture was what the Classical sculptor created, 
and of this Faustian man was incapable. It is here just as it is in the matter of 

1 It has never been sufficiently noticed that the few sculptors who came after Michelangelo 
had no more than a mere workaday relation with marble. But we see at once that it is so when we 
think of the deeply intimate relation of great musicians to their favourite instruments. The story 
of Tartini's violin, which shattered itself to pieces on the death of the master — and there are a 
hundred such stories — is the Faustian counterpart of the Pygmalion legend. Consider, too, E. T. 
A. Hoffmann's "Johannes Kreisler the Kapellmeister"; he is a figure worthy to stand by the side 
of Faust, Werther and Don Juan. To see his symbolic significance and the inward necessity of him, 
we have only to compare him with the theatrical painter-characters in the works of contemporary 
Romanticists, who are not in any relation whatever with the idea of Painting. As the fate of 19th- 
century art-romances shows — a painter cannot be made to stand for the destiny of Faustian art. 

(E. T. A. Hoffmann, the strange many-sided genius who was at once musician, caricaturist, 
novelist, critic, wit, able public official and winebibber, at one time in his career wrote in the char- 
acter of "Johannes Kreisler." See his Fantasiestucke in Callots Manier and Der Kater Murr, also Thomas 
Carlyle's "Miscellanies" and the biographical sketches of Hoffmann in Grove's Dictionary of Music 
and the Ency. Brit. — Trj 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 277 

love, in which Faustian man discovers, not primarily the act of union between 
man and woman, but the great love of Dante and beyond that the caring 
Mother. Michelangelo's erotic — which is that of Beethoven also — is as un- 
Classical as it is possible to be. It stands sub specie aternitatis and not under that 
of sense and the moment. He produced acts — a sacrifice to the Hellenic idol 
— but the soul in them denies or overmasters the visible form. He wills in- 
finity as the Greek willed proportion and rule, he embraces past and future as 
the Greek embraced present. The Classical eye absorbs plastic form into itself, 
but Michelangelo saw with the spiritual eye and broke through the foreground- 
language of immediate sensuousness. And inevitably, in the long run, he 
destroyed the conditions for this art. Marble became too trivial for his will- 
to-form. He ceased to be sculptor and turned architect. In full old age, when 
he was producing only wild fragments like the Rondanini Madonna and hardly 
cutting his figures out of the rough at all, the musical tendency of his artistry 
broke through. In the end the impulse towards contrapuntal form was no 
longer to be repressed and, dissatisfied through and through with the art upon 
which he had spent his life, yet dominated still by the unquenchable will to 
self-expression, he shattereed the canon of Renaissance architecture and created 
the Roman Baroque. For relations of material and form he substituted the con- 
test of force and mass. He grouped the columns in sheaves or else pushed them 
away into niches. He broke up the storeys with huge pilasters and gave the 
fagade a sort of surging and thrusting quality. Measure yielded to melody, 
the static to the dynamic. And thus Faustian music enlisted in its service the 
chief of all the other arts. 

With Michelangelo the history of Western sculpture is at an end. What of 
it there was after him was mere misunderstandings or reminiscences. His real 
heir was Palestrina. 

Leonardo speaks another language. In essentials Tiis spirit reached forward 
into the following century, and he was in nowise bound, as Michelangelo was 
bound by every tie of heart, to the Tuscan ideal. He alone had neither the 
ambition to be sculptor nor the ambition to be architect. It was a strange illu- 
sion of the Renaissance that the Hellenic feeling and the Hellenic cult of the 
exterior structure could be got at by way of anatomical studies. But when 
Leonardo studied anatomy it was not, as in Michelangelo's case, foreground 
anatomy, the topography of human surfaces, studied for the sake of plastic, but 
physiology studied for the inward secrets. While Michelangelo tried to force the 
whole meaning of human existence into the language of the living body, 
Leonardo's studies show the exact opposite. His much-admired sfumato is the 
first sign of the repudiation of corporeal bounds, in the name of space, and as 
such it is the starting-point of Impressionism. Leonardo begins with the 
inside, the spiritual space within us, and not with the considered definition- 
line, and when he ends (that is, if he ends at all and does not leave the picture 



z 7 8 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

unfinished), the substance of colour lies like a mere breathing over the real 
structure of the picture, which is something incorporeal and indescribable. 
Raphael's paintings fall into planes in which he disposes his well-ordered 
groups, and he closes off the whole with a well-proportioned background. 
But Leonardo knows only one space, wide and eternal, and his figures, as it 
were, float therein. The one puts inside a frame a sum of individual near things, 
the other a portion cut out of the infinite. 

"Leonardo discovered the circulation of the blood. It was no Renaissance spirit 
that brought him to that — on the contrary, the whole course of his thought 
took him right outside the conceptions of his age. Neither Michelangelo nor 
Raphael could have done it, for their painter's anatomy looks only at the form 
and position, not the function, of the parts. In mathematical language, it is 
stereometry as against analysis. Did not the Renaissance find it quite sufficient 
preparation for great painted scenes to study corpses, suppressing the becoming 
in favour of the become and calling on the dead to make Classical &rapa£ia 
accessible to Northern creative energy? But Leonardo investigated the life in 
the body as Rubens did, and not the body-in-itself as Signorelli did. His 
discovery was contemporary with that of Columbus, and the two have a deep 
affinity, for they signify the victory of the infinite over the material limitedness 
of the tangibly present. Would a Greek ever have concerned himself with 
questions like theirs? The Greeks inquired as little into the interior of their 
own organization as they sought for the sources of the Nile; these were prob- 
lems that might have jeopardized the Euclidean constitution of their being. 
The Baroque, on the other hand, is truly the period of the great discoveries. The 
very word * * discovery ' ' has something bluntly un-Classical in it. Classical man 
took good care not to take the cover, the material wrapping, off anything 
cosmic, but to do just this is the most characteristic impulse of a Faustian na- 
ture. The discoveries of the New World, the circulation of the blood, and the 
Copernican universe were achieved almost simultaneously and, at bottom, are 
completely equivalent; and the discovery of gunpowder (that is, the long-range 
weapon l ) and of printing (the long-range script) were little earlier. 

Leonardo was a discoverer through-and-through, and discovery was the 
sum in one word of his whole nature. Brush, chisel, dissecting-knife, pencil 
for calculating and compasses for drawing — all were for him of equal import- 
ance. They were for him what the Mariner's Compass was for Columbus. 
When Raphael completes with colour the sharp-drawn outline he asserts the 

1 Although gunpowder is much older than the Baroque, its application in real earnest to long- 
ranging fire-arms was only accomplished during the 16th Century. It cannot be said that there 
was any technical reason why ico years should have elapsed between the first use of powder in 
European warfare and the first effective soldier's fire-arm. No careful student of this period of 
military history can fail to be struck with this fact — the significance of which, not being technical, 
must be cultural. Much the same could be said of printing, which, so far as concerns technical fac- 
tors, might just as well have been invented in the ioth as in the 15 th Century. — Tr. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT z 79 

corporeal phenomenon in every brush-stroke, but Leonardo, in his red-chalk 
sketches and his backgrounds reveals aerial secrets with every line. He was 
the first, too, who set his mind to work on aviation. To fly, to free one's self 
from earth, to lose one's self in the expanse of the universe — is not this 
ambition Faustian in the highest degree? Is it not in fact the fulfilment of 
our dreams? Has it never been observed how the Christian legend became in 
Western painting a glorious transfiguration of this motive? All the pictured 
ascents into heaven and falls into hell, the divine figures floating above the 
clouds, the blissful detachment of angels and saints, the insistent emphasis 
upon freedom from earth's heaviness, are emblems of soul-flight, peculiar to 
the art of the Faustian, utterly remote from that of the Byzantine. 



The transformation of Renaissance fresco-painting into Venetian oil-painting 
is a matter of spiritual history. We have to appreciate very delicate and subtle 
traits to discern the process of change. In almost every picture from Masaccio's 
"Peter and the Tribute Money" in the Brancacci Chapel, through the soaring 
background that Piero della Francesca gave to the figures of Federigo and 
Battista of Urbino, 1 to Perugino's * * Christ Giving the Keys, ' ' 2 the fresco manner 
is contending with the invasive new form, though Raphael's artistic develop- 
ment in the course of his work on the Vatican " stanze" is almost the only case 
in which we can see comprehensively the change that is going on. The Floren- 
tine fresco aims at actuality in individual things and produces a sum of such 
things in an architectonic setting. Oil-painting, on the other hand, sees and 
handles with ever-growing sureness extension as a whole, and treats all objects 
only as representatives thereof. The Faustian world-feeling created the new 
technique that it wanted. It rejected the drawing style, as, from Oresme's time, 
co-ordinate geometry rejected it. It transformed the linear perspective asso- 
ciated with the architectural motive into a purely aerial perspective rendered 
by imponderable gradations of tone. But the condition of Renaissance art 
generally — its inability either to understand its own deeper tendencies or to 
make good its anti-Gothic principle — made the transition an obscure and 
difficult process. Each artist followed the trend in a way of his own. One 
painted in oils on the bare wall, and thereby condemned his work to perish 
(Leonardo's "Last Supper"). Another painted pictures as if they were wall- 
frescoes (Michelangelo). Some ventured, some guessed, some fell by the way, 
some shied. It was, as always, the struggle between hand and soul, between 
eye and instrument, between the form willed by the artist and the form willed 
by time — the struggle between Plastic and Music. 

In the light of this, we can at last understand that gigantic effort of Leo- 
nardo, the cartoon of the "Adoration of the Magi" in the Uffizi. It is the 
1 Uffizi, Florence. — Tr. 2 Sistine Chapel, Rome. — Tr. 



x8o THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

grandest piece of artistic daring in the Renaissance. Nothing like it was even 
imagined till Rembrandt. Transcending all optical measures, everything then 
called drawing, outline, composition and grouping, he pushes fearlessly on to 
challenge eternal space; everything bodily floats like the planets in the Coper- 
nican system and the tones of a Bach organ-fugue in the dimness of old churches. 
In the technical possibilities of the time, so dynamic an image of distance could 
only remain a torso. 

In the Sistine Madonna, which is the very summation of the Renaissance, 
Raphael causes the outline to draw into itself the entire content of the work. 
It is the last grand line of Western art. Already (and it is this that makes Ra- 
phael the least intelligible of Renaissance artists) convention is strained 
almost to breaking-point by the intensity of inward feeling. He did not indeed 
wrestle with problems. He had not even an inkling of them. But he brought 
art to the brink where it could no longer shirk the plunge, and he lived to 
achieve the utmost possibilities within its form-world. The ordinary person 
who thinks him flat simply fails to realize what is going on in his scheme. Look 
again, reader, at the hackneyed Madonna. Have you ever noticed the little 
dawn-cloudlets, transforming themselves into baby heads, that surround the 
soaring central figure? — these are the multitudes of the unborn that the Ma- 
donna is drawing into Life. We meet these light clouds again, with the same 
meaning, in the wondrous finale of Faust II. 1 It is just that which does not 
charm in Raphael, his sublime unpopularity, that betrays the inner victory over 
the Renaissance-feeling in him. We do understand Perugino at a glance, we 
merely think we understand Raphael. His very line — that drawing-character 
that at first sight seems so Classical — is something that floats in space, su- 
pernal, Beethoven-like. In this work Raphael is the least obvious of all artists, 
less obvious even than Michelangelo, whose intention is manifest through all 
the fragmentariness of his works. In Fra Bartolommeo the material bounding- 
line is still entirely dominant. It is all foreground, and the whole sense of 
the work is exhaustively rendered by the definition of bodies. But in Raphael 
line has become silent, expectant, veiled, waiting in an extremity of tension 
for dissolution into the infinite, into space and music. 

Leonardo is already over the frontier. The Adoration of the Magi is already 
music. It is not a casual but a deeply significant circumstance that in this work, 
as also in his St. Jerome, 2 he did not go beyond the brown underpainting, the 
"Rembrandt" stage, the atmospheric brown of the following century. For 
him, entire fullness and clearness of intention was attained with the work in 
that state, and one step into the domain of colour (for that domain was still 
under the metaphysical limitations of the fresco style) would have destroyed 
the soul of what he had created. Feeling, in all its depth, the symbolism of 
which oil-painting was later to be the vehicle, he was afraid of the fresco 
i " Doctor Marianus." — Tr. 2 Vatican. — Tr. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT x8i 

"slickness" (Fertigkeit) that must have ruined his idea. His studies for this 
painting show how close was his relation to the Rembrandt etching — an art 
whose home was also that of the art (unknown to Florence) of counterpoint. 
Only it was reserved for the Venetians, who stood outside the Florentine 
conventions, to achieve what he strove for here, to fashion a colour-world 
subserving space instead of things. 

For this reason, too, Leonardo (after innumerable attempts) decided to 
leave the Christ-head in the "Last Supper" unfinished. The men of his time 
were not even ripe for portraiture as Rembrandt understood the word, the 
magistral building-up of a soul-history out of dynamic brush-strokes and lights 
and tones. But only Leonardo was great enough to experience this limitation 
as a Destiny. Others merely set themselves to paint heads (in the modes pre- 
scribed by their respective schools) but Leonardo — the first, here, to make the 
hands also speak, and that with a physiognomic maestria — had an infinitely 
wider purpose. His soul was lost afar in the future, though his mortal part, 
his eye and hand, obeyed the spirit of the age. Assuredly he was the freest of 
the three great ones. From much of that which Michelangelo's powerful nature 
vainly wrestled with, he was already remote. Problems of chemistry, geometri- 
cal analysis, physiology (Goethe's "living Nature" was also Leonardo's), the 
technique of fire-arms — all were familiar to him. Deeper than Diirer, bolder 
than Titian, more comprehensive than any single man of his time, he was 
essentially the artist of torsos. 1 Michelangelo the belated sculptor was so, too, 
but in another sense, while in Goethe's day that which had been unattainable 
for the painter of the Last Supper had already been reached and overpassed. 
Michelangelo strove to force life once more into a dead form-world, Leonardo 
felt a new form-world in the future, Goethe divined that there could be no new 
form-worlds more. Between the first and the last of these men lie the ripe 
centuries of the Faustian Culture. 



VI 



It remains now to deal with the major characters of Western art during the 
phase of accomplishment. In this we may observe the deep necessity of all 
history at work. We have learned to understand arts as prime phenomena. 
We no longer look to the operations of cause and effect to give unity to the 
story of development. Instead, we have set up the idea of the Destiny of an 
art, and admitted arts to be organisms of the Culture, organisms which are born, 
ripen, age and for ever die. 

When the Renaissance — its last illusion — closes, the Western soul has 
come to the ripe consciousness of its own strength and possibilities. It has 
chosen its arts. As a "late" period, the Baroque knows, just as the Ionic had 

1 In Renaissance work the finished product is often quite depressingly complete. The absence 
of "infinity" is palpable. No secrets, no discoveries. 



i82. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

known, what the form-language of its arts has to mean. From being a philo- 
sophical religion, art has to be a religious philosophy. Great masters come for- 
ward in the place of anonymous schools. At the culmination of every Culture 
we have the spectacle of a splendid group of great arts, well-ordered and linked 
as a unit by the unity of the prime symbol underlying them all. The Apollinian 
group, to which belong vase-painting, fresco relief, the architecture of ranked 
columns, the Attic drama and the dance, centres upon the naked statue. The 
Faustian group forms itself round the ideal of pure spatial infinity and its centre 
of gravity is instrumental music. From this centre, fine threads radiate out into 
all spiritual form-languages and weave our infinitesimal mathematic, our 
dynamic physics, the propaganda of Jesuits and the power of our famous slogan 
of "progress," the modern machine-technique, credit economics and the 
dynastic-diplomatic State — all into one immense totality of spiritual expres- 
sion. Beginning with the inward rhythm of the cathedral and ending with 
Wagner's "Tristan" and "Parsifal," the artistic conquest of endless space 
deploys its full forces from about 1550. Plastic is dying with Michelangelo in 
Rome just when planimetry, dominant hitherto, is becoming the least im- 
portant branch of our mathematic. At the same time, Venice is producing 
Zarlino's theories of harmony and counterpoint (1558) and the practical method 
of the basso continuo — a perspective and an analysis of the world of sound — 
and this music's sister, the Northern mathematic of the Calculus, is beginning 
to mount. 

Oil-painting and instrumental music, the arts of space, are now entering into 
their kingdom. So also — consequently, we say — the two essentially material 
and Euclidean arts of the Classical Culture, viz., the all-round statue and the 
strictly planar fresco, attain to their primacy at the corresponding date of 
c. 600 b.c. And further, in the one and in the other case, it is the painting that 
ripens first. For in either kind painting on the plane is a less ambitious and more 
accessible art than modelling in solid or composing in immaterial extension. 
The period 1550-1650 belongs as completely to oil-painting as fresco and vase- 
painting belong to the 6th Century b.c. The symbolism of space and of body, 
expressed in the one case by perspective and in the other by proportion, are only 
indicated and not immediately displayed by pictorial arts. These arts, which 
can only in each case produce their respective prime-symbols (i.e., their possi- 
bilities in the extended) as illusions on a painted surface, are capable indeed of 
denoting and evoking the ideal — Classical or Western, as the case may be — 
but they are not capable of fulfilling it; they appear therefore in the path of the 
"late" Culture as the ledges before the last summit. The nearer the grand 
style comes to its point of fulfilment, the more decisive the tendency to an 
ornamental language of inexorable clarity of symbolism. The group of great 
arts is further simplified. About 1670, just when Newton and Leibniz were 
discovering the Differential Calculus, oil-painting had reached the limit of its 



ACT AND PORTRAIT i8 3 

possibilities. Its last great masters were dead or dying — Velasquez 1660, 
Poussin 1665, Franz Hals 1666, Rembrandt 1669, Vermeer 1675, Murillo, 
Ruysdael and Claude Lorrain 1682. — and one has only to name the few succes- 
sors of any importance (Watteau, Hogarth, Tiepolo) to feel at once the descent, 
the end, of an art. In this time also, the great forms of -pictorial music expired. 
Heinrich Schiitz died in 1672., Carissimi in 1674, an °l Purcell in 1695 — the last 
great masters of the Cantata, who had played around image-themes with 
infinite variety of vocal and instrumental colour and had painted veritable 
pictures of fine landscape and grand legend-scene. With Lully (1687) the 
heart of the heroic Baroque opera of Monteverde ceased to beat. It was 
the same with the old 4I classical* ' sonata for orchestra, organ and string 
trio, which was a development of image-themes in the fugal style. There- 
after, the forms become those of final maturity, the concerto grosso, the 
suite, and the three-part sonata for solo instruments. Music frees itself from 
the relics of bodiliness inherent in the human voice and becomes absolute. 
The theme is no longer an image but a pregnant function, existent only 
in and by its own evolution, for the fugal style as Bach practised it can 
only be regarded as a ceaseless process of differentiation and integration. The 
victory of pure music over painting stands recorded in the Passions which 
Heinrich Schiitz composed in his old age — the visible dawn of the new form- 
language — in the sonatas of Dall'Abaco and Corelli, the oratorios of Handel 
and the Baroque polyphony of Bach. Henceforth this music is the Faustian 
art, and Watteau may fairly be described as a painter-Couperin, Tiepolo as a 
painter-Handel. 

In the Classical world the corresponding change occurred about 460, when 
Polygnotus, the last of the great fresco-painters, ceded the inheritance of the 
grand style to Polycletus and free sculpture in the round. Till then — as late 
even as Polygnotus's contemporaries Myron and the masters of the Olympia 
pediment — the form-language of a purely planar art had dominated that of 
statuary also; for, just as painting had developed its form more and more to- 
wards the ideal of the silhouette of colour with internal drawing superposed — to such 
an extent that at last there was almost no difference between the painted relief 
and the flat picture — so also the sculptor had regarded the frontal outline as 
it presented itself to the beholder as the true symbol of the Ethos, the cultural 
type, that he meant his figure to represent. The field of the temple-pediment 
constitutes a picture; seen from the proper distance, it makes exactly the same 
impression as its contemporary the red-figure vase-painting. In Polycletus' s 
generation the monumental wall-painting gives place to the board-picture, 
the " picture" proper, in tempera or wax — a clear indication that the great 
style has gone to reside elsewhere. The ambition of Apollodorus's shadow 
painting was not in any sense what we call chiaroscuro and atmosphere, 
but sheer modelling in the round in the sculptor's sense; and of Zeuxis 



2.84 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Aristotle says expressly that his work lacked "Ethos." Thus, this newer 
Classical painting with its cleverness and human charm is the equivalent of 
our i8th-Century work. Both lacked the inner greatness and both tried by 
force of virtuosity to speak in the language of that single and final Art 
which in each case stood for ornamentation in the higher sense. Hence 
Polycletus and Phidias aline themselves with Bach and Handel; as the 
Western masters liberated strict musical form from the executive methods of 
the Painting, so the Greek masters finally delivered the statue from the asso- 
ciations of the Relief. 

And with this full plastic and this full music the two Cultures reach their 
respective ends. A pure symbolism of mathematical rigour had become pos- 
sible. Polycletus could produce his "canon" of the proportions of the human 
body, and his contemporary Bach the "Kunst der Fuge" and "Wohltem- 
periertes Klavier." In the two arts that ensued, we have the last perfection of 
achievement that pure form saturated with meaning can give. Compare the 
tone-body of Faustian instrumental music, and within that system again the 
body of the strings (in Bach, too, the virtual unity of the winds), with the 
bodies of Attic statuary. Compare the meaning of the word 4 * figure ' ' to Haydn 
with its meaning to Praxiteles. In the one case it is the figure of a rhythmic mo- 
tive in a web of voices, in the other the figure of an athlete. But in both cases 
the notion comes from mathematics and it is made plain that the aim thus 
finally attained is a union of the artistic and the mathematical spirit, for analy- 
sis like music, and Euclidean geometry like plastic, have both come to full 
comprehension of their tasks and the ultimate meaning of their respective 
number-languages. The mathematics of beauty and the beauty of mathematics 
are henceforth inseparable. The unending space of tone and the all-round body 
of marble or bronze are immediate interpretations of the extended. They belong 
to number-as-relation and to number-as-measure. In fresco and in oil-painting, 
in the laws of proportion and those of perspective, the mathematical is only 
indicated, but the two final arts are mathematics, and on these peaks Apollinian 
art and Faustian art are seen entire. 

With the exit of fresco and oil-painting, the great masters of absolute plastic 
and absolute music file on to the stage, man after man. Polycletus is followed 
by Phidias, Pasonius, Alcamenes, Scopas, Praxiteles, Lysippus. Behind Bach 
and Handel come Gluck, Stamitz, the younger Bachs, Haydn, Mozart, Bee- 
thoven — in their hands an armoury of wonderful and now long-forgotten 
instruments, a whole magician's world created by the discovering and inventing 
spirit of the West in the hope of getting more and more tones and timbres for 
the service and enhancement of musical expression — in their winds an abun- 
dance of grand, solemn, ornate, dainty, ironic, laughing and sobbing forms of 
perfectly regular structure, forms that no one now understands. In those days, 
in i8th-Century Germany especially, there was actually and effectively a Cul- 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 185 

ture of Music that suffused all Life. Its type was Hoffmann's Kapellmeister 
Kreisler. To-day it is hardly even a memory. 

And with the 18th Century, too, architecture died at last, submerged and 
choked in the music of Rococo. On that last wonderful fragile growth of the 
Western architecture criticism has blown mercilessly, failing to realize that its 
origin is in the spirit of the fugue and that its non-proportion and non-form, its 
evanescence and instability and sparkle, its destruction of surface and visual 
order, are nothing else than a victory of tones and melodies over lines and 
walls, the triumph of pure space over material, of absolute becoming over the 
become. They are no longer buildings, these abbeys and castles and churches 
with their flowing fagades and porches and "gingerbread" courts and their 
splendid staircases, galleries, salons and cabinets; they are sonatas, minuets, 
madrigals in stone, chamber-music in stucco, marble, ivory and fine woods, 
cantilene of volutes and cartouches, cadences of fliers and copings. The Dresden 
Zwinger is the most completely musical piece in all the world's architecture, 
with an ornamentation like the tone of an old violin, an allegro fugitivo for small 
orchestra. 

Germany produced the great musicians and therefore also the great architects 
of this century (Poppelmann, Schluter, Bahr, Naumann, Fischer von Erlach, 
Dinzenhofer). In oil-painting she played no part at all: in instrumental music, 
on the contrary, hers was the principal r61e. 



VII 



There is a word, "Impressionism," which only came into general use in 
Manet's time (and then, originally, as a word of contempt like Baroque and 
Rococo) but very happily summarizes the special quality of the Faustian way of 
art that has evolved from oil-painting. But, as we ordinarily speak of it, the 
idea has neither the width nor the depth of meaning that it ought to have: we 
regard it as a sequel to or derivative of the old age of an art which, in fact, 
belongs to it entirely and from first to last. What is the imitation of an "im- 
pression"? Something purely Western, something related to the idea of 
Baroque and even to the unconscious purposes of Gothic architecture and 
diametrically opposed to the deliberate aims of the Renaissance. Does it not 
signify the tendency — the deeply-necessary tendency of a waking conscious- 
ness to feel pure endless space as the supreme and unqualified actuality, and all 
sense-images as secondary and conditioned actualities "within it" ? A tendency 
that can manifest itself in artistic creations, but has a thousand other outlets 
besides. Does not Kant's formula "space as a priori form of perception" sound 
like a slogan for the whole movement that began with Leonardo? Impression- 
ism is the inverse of the Euclidean world-feeling. It tries to get as far as possible 
from the language of plastic and as near as possible to that of music. The effect 
that is made upon us by things that receive and reflect light is made not because 



2.86 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the things are there but as though they "in themselves" are not there. The 
things are not even bodies, but light-resistances in space, and their illusive 
density is to be unmasked by the brush-stroke. What is received and rendered 
is the impression of such resistances, which are tacitly evaluated as simple func- 
tions of a transcendent extension. The artist's inner eye penetrates the body, 
breaks the spell of its material bounding surfaces and sacrifices it to the majesty 
of Space. And with this impression, under its influence, he feels an endless 
movement-quality in the sensuous element that is in utter contrast to the statu- 
esque "Ataraxia" of the fresco. Therefore, there was not and could not be 
any Hellenic impressionism; if there is one art that must exclude it on principle, 
it is Classical sculpture. 

Impressionism is the comprehensive expression of a world-feeling, and it 
must obviously therefore permeate the whole physiognomy of our "Late" 
Culture. There is an impressionistic mathematic, which frankly and with in- 
tent transcends all optical limitations. It is Analysis, as developed after 
Newton and Leibniz, and to it belong the visionary images of number- 44 bodies," 
aggregates, and the multidimensional geometry. There is again an impression- 
istic physics which "sees" in lieu of bodies systems of mass-points — units 
that are evidently no more than constant relations between variable efficients. 
There are impressionistic ethics, tragedy, and logic, and even (in Pietism) an 
impressionistic Christianity. 

Be the artist painter or musician, his art consists in creating with a few 
strokes or spots or tones an image of inexhaustible content, a microcosm meet 
for the eyes or ears of Faustian man; that is, in laying the actuality of infinite 
space under enchantment by fleeting and incorporeal indications of something 
objective which, so to say, forces that actuality to become phenomenal. The 
daring of these arts of moving the immobile has no parallel. Right from the 
later work of Titian to Corot and Mensel, matter quivers and flows like a solu- 
tion under the mysterious pressure of brush-stroke and broken colours and 
lights. It was in pursuit of the same object that Baroque music became 44 the- 
matic" instead of melodic and — reinforcing the 44 theme" with every expedi- 
ent of harmonic charm, instrumental colour, rhythm, and tempo — developed 
the tone-picture from the imitative piece of Titian's day to the leitmotiv-fabric 
of Wagner, and captured a whole new world of feeling and experience. When 
German music was at its culmination, this art penetrated also into lyric poetry 
(German lyric, that is, for in French it is impossible) and gave rise to a whole 
series of tiny masterpieces, from Goethe's "Urfaust" to Holderlin's last poems 
— passages of a few lines apiece, which have never yet been noticed, let alone 
collected, but include nevertheless whole worlds of experience and feeling. On 
a small scale, it continually repeats the achievements of Copernicus and Colum- 
bus. No other Culture possesses an ornament-language of such dynamical im- 
pressiveness relatively to the means it employs. Every point or stroke of colour, 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 187 

every scarce-audible tone releases some surprising charm and continually feeds 
the imagination with fresh elements of space-creating energy. In Masaccio 
and Piero della Francesca we have actual bodies bathed in air. Then Leonardo, 
the first, discovers the transitions of atmospheric light and dark, the soft edges, 
the outlines that merge in the depth, the domains of light and shade in which 
the individual figures are inseparably involved. Finally, in Rembrandt, objects 
dissolve into mere coloured impressions, and forms lose their specific human- 
ness and become collocations of strokes and patches that tell as elements of a 
passionate depth-rhythm. Distance, so treated, comes to signify Future, for 
what Impressionism seizes and holds is by hypothesis a unique and never- 
recurring instant, not a landscape in being but a fleeting moment of the history 
thereof. Just as in a Rembrandt portrait it is not the anatomical relief of the 
head that is rendered, but the second visage in it that is confessed; just as the art 
of his brush-stroke captures not the eye but the look, not the brow but the 
experience, not the lips but the sensuousness; so also the impressionist picture 
in general presents to the beholder not the Nature of the foreground but again 
a second visage, the look and soul of the landscape. Whether we take the 
Catholic-heroic landscape of Claude Lorrain, the "paysage intime" of Corot, 
the sea and river-banks and villages of Cuyp and Van Goyen, we find always a 
portrait in the physiognomic sense, something uniquely-occurring, unforeseen, 
brought to light for the first and last time. In this love of the character and 
physiognomy in landscape — just the motive that was unthinkable in fresco 
art and permanently barred to the Classical — the art of portraiture widens 
from the immediately human to the mediately human, to the representation of 
the world as a part of the ego or the self-world in which the painter paints him- 
self and the beholder sees himself. For the expansion of Nature into Distance 
reflects a Destiny. In this art of tragic, daemonic, laughing and weeping land- 
scapes there is something of which the man of another Culture has no idea and 
for which he has no organ. Anyone who in the presence of this form-world 
talks of Hellenistic illusion-painting must be unable to distinguish between an 
ornamentation of the highest order and a soulless imitation, an ape-mimicry 
of the obvious. If Lysippus said (as Pliny tells us he said) that he represented 
men as they appeared to him, his ambition was that of a child, of a layman, of 
a savage, not that of an artist. The great style, the meaning, the deep necessity, 
are absent; even the cave-dwellers of the stone age painted thus. In reality, 
the Hellenistic painters could do more when they chose. Even so late, the wall- 
paintings of Pompeii and the "Odyssey" landscapes in Rome contain a symbol. 
In each case it is a group of bodies that is rendered — rocks, trees, even 44 the Sea" 
as a body among bodies! There is no depth, but only superposition. Of course, 
of the objects represented one or several had necessarily to be furthest away (or 
rather least near) but this is a mere technical servitude without the remotest 
affinity to the illumined supernal distances of Faustian art. 



2.88 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

VIII 

I have said that oil-painting faded out at the end of the 17th Century, when 
one after another all its great masters died, and the question will naturally, 
therefore, be asked — is Impressionism (in the current narrow sense) a creation 
of the 19th Century? Has painting lived, after all, two centuries more? Is it 
still existing? But we must not be deceived by appearances. Not only was there 
a dead space between Rembrandt and Delacroix or Constable — for when we 
think of the living art of high symbolism that was Rembrandt's the purely 
decorative artists of the 18th Century do not count — but, further, that which 
began with Delacroix and Constable was, notwithstanding all technical con- 
tinuity, something quite different from that which had ended with Rembrandt. 
The new episode of painting that in the 19th Century (i.e., beyond the 1800 
frontier and in "Civilization") has succeeded in awakening some illusion of a 
great culture of painting, has itself chosen the word Plein-air (Freilichi) to 
designate its special characteristic. The very designation suffices to show the 
significance of the fleeting phenomenon that it is. It implies the conscious, 
intellectual, cold-blooded rejection of that for which a sudden wit invented the 
name "brown sauce," but which the great masters had, as we know, regarded 
as the one truly metaphysical colour. On it had been built the painting-culture 
of the schools, and especially the Dutch school, that had vanished irretrievably 
in the Rococo. This brown, the symbol of a spatial infinity, which had for 
Faustian mankind created a spiritual something out of a mere canvas, now came 
to be regarded, quite suddenly, as an offence to Nature. What had happened? 
Was it not simply this, that the soul for which this supernal colour was some- 
thing religious, the sign of wistfulness, the whole meaning of "Living Nature," 
had quietly slipped away? The materialism of a Western cosmopolis blew into 
the ashes and rekindled this curious brief flicker — a brief flicker of two genera- 
tions, for with the generation of Manet all was ended again. I have (as the 
reader will recall) characterized the noble green of Griinewald and Claude and 
Giorgione as the Catholic space-colour and the transcendent brown of Rem- 
brandt as the colour of the Protestant world-feeling. On the other hand, 
Plein-air and its new colour scale stand for irreligion. 1 From the spheres of 
Beethoven and the stellar expanses of Kant, Impressionism has come down 
again to the crust of the earth. Its space is cognized, not experienced, seen, not 
contemplated; there is tunedness in it, but not Destiny. It is the mechanical 
object of physics and not the felt world of the pastorale that Courbet and Manet 
give us in their landscapes. Rousseau's tragically correct prophecy of a "return 

1 Hence the impossibility of achieving a genuinely religious painting on plein-air principles. 
The world-feeling that underlies it is so throughly irreligious, so worthless for any but a "religion 
of reason " so-called, that every one of its efforts in that direction, even with the noblest intentions 
(Uhde, Puvis de Chavannes), strikes us as hollow and false. One instant of plein-air treatment 
suffices to secularize the interior of a church and degrade it into a showroom. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 189 

to Nature" fulfils itself in this dying art — the senile, too, return to Nature 
day by day. The modern artist is a workman, not a creator. He sets unbroken 
spectrum-colours side by side. The subtle script, the dance of brush-strokes, 
give way to crude commonplaces, pilings and mixings and daubings of points, 
squares, broad inorganic masses. The whitewashed brush and the trowel ap- 
pear in the painter's equipment; the oil-priming of the canvas is brought into 
the scheme of execution and in places left bare. It is a risky art, meticulous, 
cold, diseased — an art for over-developed nerves, but scientific to the last 
degree, energetic in everything that relates to the conquest of technical ob- 
stacles, acutely assertive of programme. It is the "satyric pendant" of the 
great age of oil-painting that stretches from Leonardo to Rembrandt; it could 
only be at home in the Paris of Baudelaire. Corot's silvern landscapes, with 
their grey-greens and browns, dream still of the spiritual of the Old Masters; 
but Courbet and Manet conquer bare physical space, "factual" space. The 
meditative discoverer represented by Leonardo gives way to the painting 
experimentalist. Corot, the eternal child, French but not Parisian, finds his 
transcendent landscapes anywhere and everywhere; Courbet, Manet, Cezanne, 
portray over and over again, painfully, laboriously, soullessly, the Forest of 
Fontainebleau, the bank of the Seine at Argenteuil, or that remarkable valley 
near Aries. Rembrandt's mighty landscapes lie essentially in the universe, 
Manet's near a railway station. The plein-air painters, true megalopolitans, 
obtain as it were specimens of the music of space from the least agitated 
sources of Spain and Holland — from Velasquez, Goya, Hobbema, Franz Hals 
— in order (with the aid of English landscapists and, later, the Japanese, 
44 highbrows" all) to restate it in empirical and scientific terms. It is natural 
science as opposed to nature experience, head against heart, knowledge in 
contrast to faith. 

In Germany it was otherwise. Whereas in France it was a matter of closing- 
off the great school, in Germany it was a case of catching up with it. For in the 
picturesque style, as practised from Rottmann, Wasmann, K. D. Friedrich and 
Runge to Marees and Leibl, an unbroken evolution is the very basis of tech- 
nique, and even a new-style school requires a closed tradition behind it. Herein 
lies the weakness and the strength of the last German painters. Whereas the 
French possessed a continuous tradition of their own from early Baroque to 
Chardin and Corot, whereas there was living connexion between Claude Lor- 
rain and Corot, Rubens and Delacroix, all the great Germans of the 18th Cen- 
tury had been musicians. After Beethoven this music, without change of inward 
essence, was diverted (one of the modalities of the German Romantic move- 
ment) back into painting. And it was in painting that it flowered longest and 
bore its kindliest fruits, for the portraits and landscapes of these men are suf- 
fused with a secret wistful music, and there is a breath of Eichendorff and 
Morike left even in Thoma and Bocklin. But a foreign teacher had to be asked 



190 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

to supply that which was lacking in the native tradition, and so these painters 
one and all went to Paris, where they studied and copied the old masters of 
1670. So also did Manet and his circle. But there was this difference, that the 
Frenchmen found in these studies only reminiscences of something that had been 
in their art for many generations, whereas the Germans received fresh and 
wholly different impressions. The result was that, in the 19th Century, the 
German arts of form (other than music) were a phenomenon out of season — 
hasty, anxious, confused, puzzled as to both aim and means. There was indeed 
no time to be lost. The level that German music or French painting had taken 
centuries to attain had to be made good by German painting in two generations. 
The expiring art demanded its last phase, and this phase had to be reached by a 
vertiginous race through the whole past. Hence the unsteadiness, in every- 
thing pertaining to form, of high Faustian natures like Mar6es and Bocklin, 
an unsteadiness that in German music with its sure tradition (think of Bruck- 
ner) would have been impossible. The art of the French Impressionists was too 
explicit in its programme and correspondingly too poor in soul to expose them 
to such a tragedy. German literature, on the contrary, was in the same condi- 
tion as German painting; from Goethe's time, every major work was intended 
to found something and obliged to conclude something. Just as Kleist felt in 
himself both Shakespeare and Stendhal, and laboured desperately, altering and 
discarding without end and without result, to forge two centuries of psycho- 
logical art into a unit; just as Hebbel tried to squeeze all the problems from 
Hamlet to Rosmersholm into one dramatic type; so Menzel, Leibl, and Mar6es 
sought to force the old and new models — Rembrandt, Claude, Van Goyen, and 
Watteau, Delacroix, Courbet and Manet — into a single form. While the little 
early interiors of Menzel anticipated all the discoveries of the Manet circle and 
Leibl not seldom succeeded where Courbet tried and failed, their pictures renew 
the metaphysical browns and greens of the Old Masters and are fully expressive 
of an inward experience. Menzel actually re-experienced and reawakened some- 
thing of Prussian Rococo, Mar6es something of Rubens, Leibl in his "Frau 
Gedon" something of Rembrandt's protraiture. Moreover, the studio-brown 
of the 17th Century had had by its side a second art, the intensely Faustian art 
of etching. In this, as in the other, Rembrandt is the greatest master of all 
time; this, like the other, has something Protestant in it that puts it in a quite 
different category from the work of the Southern Catholic painters of blue- 
green atmospheres and the Gobelin tapestries. And Leibl, the last artist in the 
brown, was the last great etcher whose plates possess that Rembrandtesque 
infinity that contains and reveals secrets without end. In Marees, lastly, there 
was all the mighty intention of the great Baroque style, but, though Gu6ricault 
and Daumier were not too belated to capture it in positive form, he — lacking 
just that strength that a tradition would have given him — was unable to 
force it into the world of painter's actuality. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT x 9 i 



IX 



The last of the Faustian arts died in "Tristan." This work is the giant 
keystone of Western music. Painting achieved nothing like this as a finale — 
on the contrary, the effect of Manet, Menzel and Leibl, with their combination 
of "free light" and resurrected old-master styles, is weak. 

" Contemporaneously,' ' in our sense, Apollinian art came to its end in Per- 
gamene sculpture. Pergamum is the counterpart of Bayreuth. The famous altar 
itself, 1 indeed, is later, and probably not the most important work of the epoch 
at that; we have to assume a century (330-110 b.c.) of development now lost 
in oblivion. Nevertheless, all Nietzsche's charges against Wagner and Bay- 
reuth, the "Ring" and "Parsifal" — decadence, theatricalness and the like 
— could have been levelled in the same words at the Pergamene sculpture. A 
masterpiece of this sculpture — a veritable "Ring" — has come down to us 
in the Gigantomachia frieze of the great altar. Here is the same theatrical note, 
the same use of motives from ancient discredited mythology as -points d'appui, 
the same ruthless bombardment of the nerves, and also (though the lack of 
inner power cannot altogether be concealed) the same fully self-conscious force 
and towering greatness. To this art the Farnese Bull and the older model of 
the Laocoon group certainly belong. 

The symptom of decline in creative power is the fact that to produce some- 
thing round and complete the artist now requires to be emancipated from form 
and proportion. Its most obvious, though not its most significant, manifesta- 
tion is the taste for the gigantic. Here size is not, as in the Gothic and the 
Pyramid styles, the expression of inward greatness, but the dissimulation of its 
absence. This swaggering in specious dimensions is common to all nascent 
Civilizations — we find it in the Zeus altar of Pergamum, the Helios of Chares 
called the "Colossus of Rhodes," the architecture of the Roman Imperial Age, 
the New Empire work in Egypt, the American skyscraper of to-day. But what 
is far more indicative is the arbitrariness and immoderateness that tramples on 
and shatters the conventions of centuries. In Bayreuth and in Pergamum, it 
was the superpersonal Rule, the absolute mathematic of Form, the Destiny 
immanent in the quietly-matured language of a great art, that was found to be 
intolerable. The way from Polycletus to Lysippus and from Lysippus to the 
sculptors of the groups of Gauls 2 is paralleled by the way from Bach, by Bee- 
thoven, to Wagner. The earlier artists felt themselves masters, the later uneasy 
slaves, of the great form. While even Praxiteles and Haydn were able to speak 
freely and gaily within the limits of the strictest canon, Lysippus and Bee- 
thoven could only produce by straining their voices. The sign of all living art, 

1 State Museum, Berlin. — TV. 

2 I.e., the "giants" of the great frieze, who were in fact Galatians playing the part. This 
Gigantomachia, a programme-work like the Ring, represented a situation, as the Ring represented 
characters, under mythological labels. — Tr. 



192. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

the pure harmony of "will," "must" and "can," the self-evidence of the aim, 
the un-self-consciousness of the execution, the unity of the art and the Culture 
— all that is past and gone. In Corot and Tiepolo, Mozart and Cimarosa, there 
is still a real mastery of the mother-tongue. After them, the process of mutila- 
tion begins, but no one is conscious of it because no one now can speak it 
fluently. Once upon a time, Freedom and Necessity were identical; but now 
what is understood by freedom is in fact indiscipline. In the time of Rembrandt 
or Bach the "failures" that we know only too well were quite unthinkable. 
The Destiny of the form lay in the race or the school, not in the private ten- 
dencies of the individual. Under the spell of a great tradition full achievement 
is possible even to a minor artist, because the living art brings him in touch 
with his task and the task with him. To-day, these artists can no longer per- 
form what they intend, for intellectual operations are a poor substitute for the 
trained instinct that has died out. All of them have experienced this. Mar£es 
was unable to complete any of his great schemes. Leibl could not bring him- 
self to let his late pictures go, and worked over them again and again to such 
an extent that they became cold and hard. C&anne and Renoir left work of 
the best quality unfinished because, strive as they would, they could do no more. 
Manet was exhausted after he had painted thirty pictures, and his "Shooting 
of the Emperor Maximilian, ' ' in spite of the immense care that is visible in every 
item of the picture and the studies for it, hardly achieved as much as Goya 
managed without effort in its prototype the "shootings of the 3rd of May." 
Bach, Haydn, Mozart and a thousand obscure musicians of the 18th Century 
could rapidly turn out the most finished work as a matter of routine, but Wag- 
ner knew full well that he could only reach the heights by concentrating all his 
energy upon "getting the last ounce" out of the best moments of his artistic 
endowment. 

Between Wagner and Manet there is a deep relationship, which is not, in- 
deed, obvious to everyone but which Baudelaire with his unerring flair for the 
decadent detected at once. For the Impressionists, the end and the culmination 
of art was the conjuring up of a world in space out of strokes and patches of 
colour, and this was just what Wagner achieved with three bars. A whole 
world of soul could crowd into these three bars. Colours of starry midnight, 
of sweeping clouds, of autumn, of the day dawning in fear and sorrow, sudden 
glimpses of sunlit distances, world-fear, impending doom, despair and its fierce 
effort, hopeless hope — all these impressions which no composer before him 
had thought it possible to catch, he could paint with entire distinctness in the 
few tones of a motive. Here the contrast of Western music with Greek plastic 
has reached its maximum. Everything merges in bodiless infinity, no longer 
even does a linear melody wrestle itself clear of the vague tone-masses that in 
strange surgings challenge an imaginary space. The motive comes up out of 
dark terrible deeps. It is flooded for an instant by a flash of hard bright sun. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT 193 

Then, suddenly, it is so close upon us that we shrink. It laughs, it coaxes, it 
threatens, and anon it vanishes into the domain of the strings, only to return 
again out of endless distances, faintly modified and in the voice of a single 
oboe, to pour out a fresh cornucopia of spiritual colours. Whatever this is, it 
is neither painting nor music, in any sense of these words that attaches to 
previous work in the strict style. Rossini was asked once what he thought 
of the music of the "Huguenots'*; "Music?'* he replied. "I heard nothing 
resembling it.'* Many a time must this judgment have been passed at Athens 
on the new painting of the Asiatic and Sicyonian schools, and opinions not 
very different must have been current in Egyptian Thebes with regard to the 
art of Cnossus and Tell-el-Amarna. 

All that Nietzsche says of Wagner is applicable, also, to Manet. Ostensibly 
a return to the elemental, to Nature, as against contemplation-painting (In- 
haltsmalerei) and abstract music, their art really signifies a concession to the 
barbarism of the Megalopolis, the beginning of dissolution sensibly manifested 
in a mixture of brutality and refinement. As a step, it is necessarily the last 
step. An artificial art has no further organic future, it is the mark of the end. 

And the bitter conclusion is that it is all irretrievably over with the arts of 
form of the West. The crisis of the 19th Century was the death-struggle. Like 
the Apollinian, the Egyptian and every other, the Faustian art dies of senility, 
having actualized its inward possibilities and fulfilled its mission within the 
course of its Culture. 

What is practised as art to-day — be it music after Wagner or painting after 
C6zanne, Leibl and Menzel — is impotence and falsehood. Look where one will, 
can one find the great personalities that would justify the claim that there is 
still an art of determinate necessity? Look where one will, can one find the 
self-evidently necessary task that awaits such an artist? We go through all the 
exhibitions, the concerts, the theatres, and find only industrious cobblers and 
noisy fools, who delight to produce something for the market, something that 
will "catch on'* with a public for whom art and music and drama have long 
ceased to be spiritual necessities. At what a level of inward and outward 
dignity stand to-day that which is called art and those who are called artists! 
In the shareholders' meeting of any limited company, or in the technical staff 
of any first-rate engineering works there is more intelligence, taste, character 
and capacity than in the whole music and painting of present-day Europe. 
There have always been, for one great artist, a hundred superfluities who prac- 
tised art, but so long as a great tradition (and therefore great art) endured even 
these achieved something worthy. We can forgive this hundred for existing, 
for in the ensemble of the tradition they were the footing for the individual 
great man. But to-day we have only these superfluities, and ten thousand of 
them, working art "for a living" (as if that were a justification!). One thing 
is quite certain, that to-day every single art-school could be shut down without 



2. 9 4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

art being affected in the slightest. We can learn all we wish to know about 
the art-clamour which a megalopolis sets up in order to forget that its art is 
dead from the Alexandria of the year zoo. There, as here in our world-cities, 
we find a pursuit of illusions of artistic progress, of personal peculiarity, of 
the new style, "of unsuspected possibilities, ' ' theoretical babble, pretentious 
fashionable artists, weight-lifters with cardboard dumb-bells — the "Literary 
Man " in the Poet's place, the unabashed farce of Expressionism which the art- 
trade has organized as a "phase of art-history," thinking and feeling and form- 
ing as industrial art. Alexandria, too, had problem-dramatists and box-office 
artists whom it preferred to Sophocles, and painters who invented new tenden- 
cies and successfully bluffed their public. What do we possess to-day as "art"? 
A faked music, filled with artificial noisiness of massed instruments; a faked 
painting, full of idiotic, exotic and showcard effects, that every ten years or so 
concocts out of the form-wealth of millennia some new "style" which is in 
fact no style at all since everyone does as he pleases; a lying plastic that steals 
from Assyria, Egypt and Mexico indifferently. Yet this and only this, the taste 
of the "man of the world," can be accepted as the expression and sign of the 
age; everything else, everything that "sticks to" old ideals, is for provincial 
consumption. 

The grand Ornamentation of the past has become as truly a dead language as 
Sanskrit or Church Latin. 1 Instead of its symbolism being honoured and 
obeyed, its mummy, its legacies of perfected forms, are put into the pot anyhow, 
and recast in wholly inorganic forms. Every modern age holds change to be 
development, and puts revivals and fusions of old styles in the place of real be- 
coming. Alexandria also had its Pre-Raphaelite comedians with their vases, 
chairs, pictures and theories, its symbolists, naturalists and expressionists. 
The fashion at Rome was now Grseco-Asiatic, now Grseco-Egyptian, now 
(after Praxiteles) neo-Attic. The relief of the XlXth Dynasty — the modern 
age in the Egyptian Culture — that covered the monstrous, meaningless, in- 
organic walls, statues and columns, seems like a sheer parody of the art of the 
Old Kingdom. The Ptolemaic Horus-temple of Edfu is quite unsurpassed in the 
way of vacuous eclecticism — so far, for we are only at the beginning of our 
own development in this line, showy and assertive as the style of our streets 
and squares already is. 

In due course, even the strength to wish for change fades out. Rameses the 
Great — so soon — appropriated to himself buildings of his predecessors by 
cutting out their names and inserting his own in the inscriptions. It was the 
same consciousness of artistic impotence that led Constantine to adorn his 
triumphal arch in Rome with sculptures taken from other buildings; but 
Classical craftsmanship had set to work long before Constantine — as early, 
in fact, as 150 — on the business of copying old masterpieces, not because these 

1 Sec Vol. II, pp. 138 et scq. 



ACT AND PORTRAIT x 95 

were understood and appreciated in the least, but because no one was any longer 
capable of producing originals. It must not be forgotten that these copyists 
were the artists of their time; their work therefore (done in one style or another 
according to the moment's fashion) represent the maximum of creative power 
then available. All the Roman portrait statues, male and female, go back for 
posture and mien to a very few Hellenic types; these, copied more or less true to 
style, served for torsos, while the heads were executed as "Likenesses" by 
simple craftsmen who possessed the knack. The famous statue of Augustus in 
armour, for example, is based on the Spearman of Polycletus, just as — to name 
the first harbingers of the same phase in our own world — Lenbach rests upon 
Rembrandt and Makart upon Rubens. For 1500 years (Amasis I to Cleopatra) 
Egypticism piled portrait on portrait in the same way. Instead of the steady 
development that the great age had pursued through the Old and Middle King- 
doms, we find fashions that change according to the taste of this or that dynasty. 
Amongst the discoveries at Turfan are relics of Indian dramas, contemporary 
with the birth of Christ, which are similar in all respects to the Kalidasa of a 
later century. Chinese painting as we know it shows not an evolution but an 
up-and-down of fashions for more than a thousand years on end; and this 
unsteadiness must have set in as early as the Han period. The final result is that 
endless industrious repetition of a stock of fixed forms which we see to-day in 
Indian, Chinese, and Arabian-Persian art. Pictures and fabrics, verses and 
vessels, furniture, dramas and musical compositions — all is patternwork. 1 
We cease to be able to date anything within centuries, let alone decades, 
by the language of its ornamentation. So it has been in the Last Act of all 
Cultures. 

1 See pp. 197 et seq. 



CHAPTER IX 
SOUL-IMAGE AND LIFE-FEELING 

I 

ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 



V 



CHAPTER IX 

SOUL-IMAGE AND LIFE-FEELING 
I 

ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 



Every professed philospher is forced to believe, without serious examination, 
in the existence of a Something that in his opinion is capable of being handled 
by the reason, for his whole spiritual existence depends on the possibility of 
such a Something. For every logician and psychologist, therefore, however 
sceptical he may be, there is a point at which criticism falls silent and faith 
begins, a point at which even the strictest analytical thinker must cease to em- 
ploy his method — the point, namely, at which analysis is confronted with 
itself and with the question of whether its problem is soluble or even exists at 
all. The proposition "it is possible by thought to establish the forms of 
thought" was not doubted by Kant, dubious as it may appear to the unphilo- 
sophical. The proposition "there is a soul, the structure of which is scientif- 
ically accessible; and that which I determine, by critical dissection of conscious 
existence-acts into the form of psychic elements, functions, and complexes, is 
my soul" is a proposition that no psychologist has doubted hitherto. And yet 
it is just here that his strongest doubts should have arisen. Is an abstract science 
of the spiritual possible at all? Is that which one finds on this path identical 
with that which one is seeking? Why has psychology — meaning thereby not 
knowledge of men and experience of life but scientific psychology — always been 
the shallowest and most worthless of the disciplines of philosophy, a field so 
empty that it has been left entirely to mediocre minds and barren systematists? • 
The reason is not far to seek. It is the misfortune of experimental' ' psy- 
chology that it does not even possess an object as the word is understood in any 
and every scientific technique. Its searches and solutions are fights with 
shadows and ghosts. What is it — the Soul? If the mere reason could give an 
answer to that question, the science would be ab initio unnecessary. 

Of the thousands of psychologists of to-day not one can give an actual 
analysis or definition of "the" Will — or of regret, anxiety, jealousy, disposi- 
tion, artistic intention. Naturally, since only the systematic can be dissected, 
and we can only define notions by notions. No subtleties of intellectual play 
with notional distinctions, no plausible observations of connexions between 

2-99 



3 oo THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

sensuous-corporeal states and "inward processes" touch that which is in ques- 
tion here. Will — this is no notion, but a name, a prime-word like God, a sign 
for something of which we have an immediate inward certainty but which we 
are for ever unable to describe. 

We are dealing here with something eternally inaccessible to learned inves- 
tigation. It is not for nothing that every language presents a baffling com- 
plexity of labels for the spiritual, warning us thereby that it is something not 
susceptible of theoretical synthesis or systematic ordering. Here there is noth- 
ing for us to order. Critical (i.e., literally, separating) methods apply only to 
the world-as-Nature. It would be easier to break up a theme of Beethoven 
with dissecting-knife or acid than to break up the soul by methods of abstract 
thought. Nature-knowledge and man-knowledge have neither aims nor ways 
in common. The primitive man experiences "soul," first in other men and then 
in himself, as a Numen, just as he knows numina of the outer world, and de- 
velops his impressions in mythological form. His words for these things are 
symbols, sounds, not descriptive of the indescribable but indicative of it for 
him who hath ears to hear. They evoke images, likenesses (in the sense of 
Faust II) — the only language of spiritual intercourse that man has discovered 
to this day. Rembrandt can reveal something of his soul, to those who are in 
inward kinship with him, by way of a self-portrait or a landscape, and to 
Goethe "a god gave it to say what he suffered." Certain ineffable stirrings 
of soul can be imparted by one man to the sensibility of another man through 
a look, two bars of a melody, an almost imperceptible movement. That is the 
real language of souls, and it remains incomprehensible to the outsider. The 
word as utterance, as poetic element, may establish the link, but the word as 
notion, as element of scientific prose, never. 

"Soul," for the man who has advanced from mere living and feeling to the 
alert and observant state, is an image derived from quite primary experiences of 
life and death. It is as old as thought, i.e., as the articulate separation of 
thinking (thinking-over) from seeing. We see the world around us, and since 
every free-moving being must for its own safety understand that world, the 
accumulating daily detail of technical and empirical experience becomes a 
stock of permanent data which man, as soon as he is proficient in speech, col- 
lects into an image of what he understands. This is the World-as-Nature. 1 What 
is not environment we do not see, but we do divine " its " presence in ourselves 
and in others, and by virtue of "its" physiognomic impressive power it evokes 
in us the anxiety and the desire to know; and thus arises the meditated or 
pondered image of a counterworld which is our mode of visualizing that which 
remains eternally alien to the physical eye. The image of the soul is mythic 
and remains objective in the field of spiritual religion so long as the image of 
Nature is contemplated in the spirit of religion; and it transforms itself into a 

1 See pp. 55 et scq. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 301 

scientific notion and becomes objective in the field of scientific criticism as soon 
as 4 * Nature * * comes to be observed critically. As 4 4 Time * * is a counter-concept l 
to space, so the "soul" is a counterwork! to "Nature" and therefore variable 
in dependence upon the notion of Nature as this stands from moment to mo- 
ment. It has been shown how 4 4 Time * * arose, out of the feeling of the direction- 
quality possessed by ever-mobile Life, as a conceptual negative to a positive 
magnitude, as an incarnation of that which is not extension; and that all the 
4 'properties" of Time, by the cool analysis of which the philosophers believe 
they can solve the problem of Time, have been gradually formed and ordered 
in the intellect as inverses to the properties of space. In exactly the same way, 
the notion of the spiritual has come into being as the inverse and negative of the 
notion of the world, the spatial notion of polarity assisting ( 44 outward"- 4 'in- 
ward") and the terms being suitably transvalued. Every psychology is a counter- 
physics. 

To attempt to get an 44 exact" science out of the ever-mysterious soul is 
futile. But the late-period City must needs have abstract thinking and it 
forces the * 4 physicist of the inner world" to elucidate a fictitious world by 
ever more fictions, notions by more notions. He transmutes the non-extended 
into the extended, builds up a system as 44 cause" for something that is only 
manifested physiognomically, and comes to believe that in this system he has 
the structure of 44 the " soul before his eyes. But the very words that he selects, 
in all the Cultures, to notify to others the results of his intellectual labours 
betray him. He talks of functions, feeling-complexes, mainsprings, thresholds 
of consciousness; course, breadth, intensity and parallelism in spiritual proc- 
esses. All these are words proper to the mode of representation that Natural 
Science employs. * 4 The Will is related to objects" is a spatial image pure 
and simple. "Conscious" and * 4 unconscious" are only too obviously deriv- 
atives of 44 above-ground" and * 4 below-ground." In modern theories of the 
Will we meet with all the vocabulary of electro-dynamics. Will-functions 
and thought-functions are spoken of in just the same way as the function 
of a system of forces. To analyse a feeling means to set up a representative 
silhouette in its place and then to treat this silhouette mathematically and 
by definition, partition, and measurement. All soul-examination of this stamp, 
however remarkable as a study of cerebral anatomy, is penetrated with the 
mechanical notion of locality, and works without knowing it under imagi- 
nary co-ordinates in an imaginary space. The * 4 pure" psychologist is quite 
unaware that he is copying the physicist, but it is not at all surprising that 
the naivest methods of experimental psychology give depressingly orthodox 
results. Brain-paths and association-threads, as modes of representation, 
conform entirely to an optical scheme — the "course" of the will or the 
feeling; both deal with cognate spatial phantoms. It does not make much dif- 

1 See p. 116. 



3 cxl THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

ference whether I define some psychic capacity conceptually or the correspond- 
ing brain-region graphically. Scientific psychology has worked out for itself 
a complete system of images, in which it moves with entire conviction. Every 
individual pronouncement of every individual psychologist proves on examina- 
tion to be merely a variation of this system conformable to the style of outer- 
world science of the day. 

Clear thought, emancipated from all connexion with seeing, presupposes 
as its organ a culture-language, which is created by the soul of the Culture as 
a part supporting other parts of its expression; * and presently this language 
itself creates a " Nature* ' of word-meanings, a linguistic cosmos within which 
abstract notions, judgments and conclusions — representations of number, 
causality, motion — can lead a mechanically determinate existence. At any 
particular time, therefore, the current image of the soul is a function of the 
current language and its inner symbolism. All the Western, Faustian, languages 
possess the notion of Will. This mythical entity manifested itself, simultane- 
ously in all, in that transformation of the verb 2 which decisively differentiated 
our tongues from the Classical tongues and therefore our soul from the Classical 
soul. When "ego habeo factum" replaced "feci," a new numen of the inner 
world spoke. And at the same time, under specific label, there appeared in the 
scientific soul-pictures of all the Western psychologies the figure of the Will, 
of a well-rounded capacity of which the definition may be formulated in dif- 
ferent ways by different schools, but the existence is unquestionable. 

ii 

I maintain, then, that scientific psychology (and, it may be added, the 
psychology of the same kind that we all unconsciously practise when we try 
to "figure to ourselves" the stirrings of our own or others' souls) has, in its 
inability to discover or even to approach the essense of the soul, simply added 
one more to the symbols that collectively make up the Macrocosm of the 
culture-man. Like everything else that is no longer becoming but become, it 
has put a mechanism in place of an organism. We miss in its picture that which 
fills our feeling of life (and should surely be * * soul ' ' if anything is) the Destiny- 
quality, the necessary directedness of existence, the possibility that life in its 
course actualizes. I do not believe that the word "Destiny" figures in any 
psychological system whatsoever — and we know that nothing in the world 
could be more remote from actual life-experience and knowledge of men than 

1 Primitive languages afford no foundations for abstract ordered thought. But at the beginning 
of every Culture an inner change takes place in the language that makes it adequate for carrying the 
highest symbolic tasks of the ensuing cultural development. Thus it was simultaneously with the 
Romanesque style that English and German arose out of the Teutonic languages of the Frankish period, 
and French, Italian and Spanish out of the " lingua rustica " of the old Roman provinces — languages 
of identical metaphysical content though so dissimilar in origin. 

2 See p. 2.62.. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 303 

a system without such elements. Associations, apperceptions, affections, mo- 
tives, thought, feeling, will — all are dead mechanisms, the mere topography 
of which constitutes the insignificant total of our "soul-science." One looked 
for Life and one found an ornamental pattern of notions. And the soul re- 
mained what it was, something that could neither be thought nor represented, 
the secret, the ever-becoming, the pure experience. 

This imaginary soul-body (let it be called so outright for the first time) is 
never anything but the exact mirror-image of the form in which the matured 
culture-man looks on his outer world. In the one as in the other, the depth- 
experience actualizes the extension-world. 1 Alike out of the perception of the 
outside and the conception of the inside, the secret that is hinted at in the 
root-word Time creates Space. The soul-image like the world-image has its 
directional depth, its horizon, and its boundedness or its unboundedness. An 
"inner eye" sees, an "inner ear" hears. There exists a distinct idea of 
an inner order, and this inner order like the outer wears the badge of causal 
necessity. 

This being so, everything that has been said in this work regarding the 
phenomenon of the high Cultures combines to demand an immensely wider 
and richer sort of soul-study than anything worked upon so far. For everything 
that our present-day psychologist has to tell us — and here we refer not only to 
the systematic science but also in the wider sense to the physiognomic knowl- 
edge of men — relates to the f resent condition of the Western soul, and not, as 
hitherto gratuitously assumed, to "the human soul" at large. 

A soul-image is never anything but the image of one quite definite soul. 
No observer can ever step outside the conditions and the limitations of his 
time and circle, and whatever it may be that he "knows" or "cognizes," the 
very cognition itself involves in all cases choice, direction and inner form, and 
is therefore ab initio an expression of his proper soul. The primitive himself 
appropriates a soul-image out of facts of his own life as subjected to the form- 
ative working of the basic experiences of waking consciousness (distinction 
of ego and world, of ego and tu) and those of being (distinction of body and 
soul, sense-life and reflection, sex-life and sentiment). And as it is thoughtful 
men who think upon these matters, an inner numen (Spirit, Logos, Ka, Ruach) 
always arises as an opposite to the rest. But the dispositions and relations of 
this numen in the individual case, and the conception that is formed of the 
spiritual elements — layers of forces or substances, unity or polarity or plu- 
rality — mark the thinker from the outset as a part of his own specific Culture. 
When, therefore, one convinces one's self that one knows the soul of an alien 
Culture from its workings in actuality, the soul-image underlying the knowl- 
edge is really one's own soul-image. In this wise new experiences are readily 
assimilated into the system that is already there, and it is not surprising 

1 See p. 171. 



304 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

that in the end one comes to believe that one has discovered forms of eternal 
validity. 

In reality, every Culture possesses its own systematic psychology just as it 
possesses its own style of knowledge of men and experience of life; and just as 
even each separate stage — the age of Scholasticism, that of the Sophists, that 
of Enlightenment — forms special ideas of number and thought and Nature 
that pertain to itself only, so even each separate century mirrors itself in a soul- 
image of its own. The best judge of men in the Western world goes wrong 
when he tries to understand a Japanese, and vice versa. But the man of learn- 
ing goes equally wrong when he tries to translate basic words of Arabic or 
Greek by basic words of his own tongue. "Nephesh" is not "animus" and 
"£tma*n" is not "soul," and what we consistently discover under our label 
44 will" Classical man did not find in his soul-picture at all. 

Taking one thing with another, it is no longer possible to doubt the immense 
importance of the individual soul-images that have severally arisen in the 
general history of thought. Classical, Apollinian man, the man of Euclidean 
point-formed being, looked upon his soul as a Cosmos ordered in a group of 
excellent parts. Plato called it poDs, 0uju6s, kinBviila. and compared it with man, 
beast and plant, in one place even with Southern, Northern and Hellenic man. 
What seems to be copied here is Nature as seen by the Classical age, a well- 
ordered sum of tangible things, in contrast to a space that was felt as the non- 
existent, the Nonent. Where in this field is "Will"? or the idea of functional 
connexions? or the other creations of our psychology? Do we really believe 
that Plato and Aristotle were less sure in analysis than we are, and did not see 
what is insistently obvious to every layman amongst us? Or is it that Will is 
missing here for the same reason as space is missing in the Classical mathe- 
matic and force in the Classical physics? 

Take, on the contrary, any Western psychology that you please, and you 
will always find a functional and never a bodily ordering. The basic form of all 
impressions which we receive from within isjy = f(x), and that, because the func- 
tion is the basis of our outer world. Thinking, feeling, willing — no Western 
psychologist can step outside this trinity, however much he may desire to do 
so; even in the controversies of Gothic thinkers concerning the primacy of 
will or reason it already emerges that the question is one of a relation between 
forces. It matters not at all whether these old philosophers put forward their 
theories as original or read them into Augustine or Aristotle. Associations, 
apperceptions, will-processes, call them what you will, the elements of our 
picture are without exception of the type of the mathematico-physical Func- 
tion, and in very form radically un-Classical. Now, such psychology examines 
the soul, not physiognomically to indicate its traits, but physically, as an 
object, to ascertain its elements, and it is quite natural therefore to find psy- 
chology reduced to perplexity when confronted with the problem of motion. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 305 

Classical man, too, had his inward Eleatic difficulty, 1 and the inability of the 
Schoolmen to agree as to the primacy of Will or Reason foreshadows the 
dangerous flaw in Baroque physics — its inability to reach an unchallengeable 
statement of the relation between force and movement. Directional energy, 
denied in the Classical and also in the Indian soul-image (where all is settled 
and rounded), is emphatically affirmed in the Faustian and in the Egyptian 
(wherein all is systems and centres of forces); and yet, precisely because this 
affirmation cannot but involve the element of time, thought, which is alien 
to Time, finds itself committed to self-contradictions. 

The Faustian and the Apollinian images of the soul are in blunt opposition. 
Once more all the old contrasts crop up. In the Apollinian we have, so to call 
it, the soul-body, in the Faustian the soul-space, as the imagination-unit. The 
body possesses parts, while the space is the scene of processes. Classical man 
conceives of his inner world plastically. Even Homer's idiom betrays it; 
echoing, we may well believe, immemorial temple-traditions, he shows us, for 
instance, the dead in Hades as well-recognizable copies of the bodies that had 
been. The Pre-Socratic philosophy, with its three well-ordered parts \oyi<rTucov, 
kTidvfjLrjTucdv, 0u/xo€i5es, suggests at once the Laocoon group. In our case the 
impress is a musical one; the sonata of the inner life has the will as first 
subject, thought and feeling as themes of the second subject; the movement 
is bound by the strict rules of a spiritual counterpoint, and psychology's 
business is to discover this counterpoint. The simplest elements fall into an- 
tithesis like Classical and Western number — on the one hand magnitudes, 
on the other spiritual relations — and the spiritual static of Apollinian exist- 
ence, the stereometric ideal of aaxfrpoabvri and drapaf (a, stands opposed to the 
soul-dynamic of Faustian. 

The Apollinian soul-image — Plato's biga-team with vovs as charioteer — 
takes to flight at once on the approach of the Magian soul. It is fading out 
already in the later Stoa, where the principal teachers came predominantly from 
the Aramaic East, and by the time of the Early Roman Empire, even in the 
literature of the city itself, it has come to be a mere reminiscence. 

The hall-mark of the Magian soul-image is a strict dualism of two mysterious 

1 That is, discussion of the doctrines of the Eleatic school regarding unity and plurality, the 
Ent and Nonent, focussed themselves, in Zeno, down to the famous paradoxes concerning the nature 
of motion (such as "Achilles and the Tortoise") which within the Greek discipline were unanswer- 
able. Their general effect was to show that motion depended upon the existence of an indefinitely 
great plurality, that is, of infinitely small subdivisions as well as infinitely great quantities, and, the 
denial of this plurality being the essential feature of the Eleatic philosophy, its application to motion 
was bound to produce "paradoxes." 

The enunciations, with a brief but close critique, will be found in the Ency. Brit., XI ed., Article 
Zeno of Elea. Here it suffices to draw attention to the difficulties that are caused by the absence (or 
unwelcome presence) of time and direction elements, not only in the treatment of plurality itself 
(which is conceived of indifferently as an augmentation or as a subdivision of the finite magnitude) 
but especially in the conclusion of the "arrow" paradox and in the very obscure enunciation of 
Paradox 8. — Tr. 



306 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

substances, Spirit and Soul. Between these two there is neither the Classical 
(static) nor the Western (functional) relation, but an altogether differently 
constituted relation which we are obliged to call merely "Magian" for want 
of a more helpful term, though we may illustrate it by contrasting the physics 
of Democritus and the physics of Galileo with Alchemy and the Philosopher's 
Stone. On this specifically Middle-Eastern soul-image rests, of inward 
necessity, all the psychology and particularly the theology with which the 
' 4 Gothic ' ' springtime of the Arabian Culture (0-300 a.d.) is filled. The Gospel 
of St. John belongs thereto, and the writings of the Gnostics, the Early Fathers, 
the Neoplatonists, the Manichasans, and the dogmatic texts in the Talmud and 
the A vesta; so, too, does the tired spirit of the Imperium Romanum, now 
expressed only in religiosity and drawing the little life that is in its philosophy 
from the young East, Syria, and Persia. Even in the 1st Century b.c. the great 
Posidonius, a true Semite and young-Arabian in spite of the Classical dress 
of his immense learning, was inwardly sensible of the complete opposition 
between the Classical life-feeling and this Magian soul-structure which for 
him was the true one. There is a patent difference of value between a Substance 
permeating the body and a Substance which falls from the world-cavern into 
humanity, abstract and divine, making of all participants a Consensus. 1 This 
"Spirit" it is which evokes the higher world, and through this creation tri^ 
umphs over mere life, "the flesh" and Nature. This is the prime image that 
underlies all feeling of ego. Sometimes it is seen in religious, sometimes in 
philosophical, sometimes in artistic guise. Consider the portraits of the Con- 
stantinian age, with their fixed stare into the infinite — that look stands for the 
irvcvfia. It is felt by Plotinus and by Origen. Paul distinguishes, for example 
in I Cor., xv, 44, between <r&/za \[n)x^6v and aQjia wvevjiaTucdv. The concep- 
tion of a double, bodily or spiritual, ecstasy and of the partition of men into 
lower and higher, psychics and pneumatics, was familiar currency amongst 
the Gnostics. Late-Classical literature (Plutarch) is full of the dualistic psy- 
chology of vovs and yfoxn* derived from Oriental sources. It was very soon 
brought into correlation with the contrast between Christian and Heathen and 
that between Spirit and Nature, and it issued in that scheme of world-history 
as man's drama from Creation to Last Judgment (with an intervention of God 
as means) which is common to Gnostics, Christians, Persians and Jews alike, 
and has not even now been altogether overcome. 

This Magian soul-image received its rigorously scientific completion in the 
schools of Baghdad and Basra. 2 Alfarabi and Alkindi dealt thoroughly with 
the problems of this Magian psychology, which to us are tangled and largely 
inaccessible. And we must by no means underrate its influence upon the young 
and wholly abstract soul-theory (as distinct from the ego-feeling) of the West. 

1 See Vol. II, pp. 196 et seq. 

8 De Boer, Gescb. d. Philos. im Islam (1901), pp. 93, 108. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 307 

Scholastic and Mystic philosophy, no less than Gothic art, drew upon Moorish 
Spain, Sicily and the East for many of its forms. It must not be forgotten that 
the Arabian Culture is the culture of the established revelation-religions, all 
of which assume a dualistic soul-image. The Kabbala 1 and the part played 
by Jewish philosophers in the so-called mediaeval philosophy — i.e., late- 
Arabian followed by early-Gothic — is well known. But I will only refer here 
to the remarkable and little-appreciated Spinoza. 2 Child of the Ghetto, he is, 
with his contemporary Schirazi, the last belated representative of the Magian, 
a stranger in the form-world of the Faustian feeling. As a prudent pupil of the 
Baroque he contrived to clothe his system in the colours of Western thought, 
but at bottom he stands entirely under the aspect of the Arabian dualism of 
two soul-substances. And this is the true and inward reason why he lacked the force- 
concept of Galileo and Descartes. This concept is the centre of gravity of a dynamic 
universe and ipso facto is alien to the Magian world-feeling. There is no link 
between the idea of the Philosopher's Stone (which is implicit in Spinoza's 
idea of Deity as "causa sui") and the causal necessity of our Nature-picture 
Consequently, his determinism is precisely that which the orthodox wisdom 
of Baghdad had maintained — "Kismet." It was there that the home of the 
more geometrico 3 method was to be looked for — it is common to the Talmud, 
the Zend Avesta and the Arabian Kalaam; 4 but its appearance in Spinoza's 
"Ethics" is a grotesque freak in our philosophy. 

Once more this Magian soul-image was to be conjured up, for a moment. 
German Romanticism found in magic and the tangled thought-threads of 
Gothic philosophers the same attractiveness as it found in the Crusade-ideals 
of cloisters and castles, and even more in Saracenic art and poetry — without 
of course understanding very much of these remote things. Schelling, Oken, 
Baader, Gorres and their circle indulged in barren speculations in the Arabic- 
Jewish style, which they felt with evident self-satisfaction to be M dark" and 
"deep" — precisely what, for Orientals, they Were not — understanding them 
but partially themselves and hoping for similar quasi-incomprehension in their 
audiences. The only noteworthy point in the episode is the attractiveness of 
obscurity. We may venture the conclusion that the clearest and most accessible 
conceptions of Faustian thought — as we have it, for instance, in Descartes 
or in Kant's "Prolegomena" — would in the same way have been regarded 
by an Arabian student as nebulous and abstruse. What for us is true, for them 
is false, and vice versa; and this is valid for the soul-images of the different 
Cultures as it is for every other product of their scientific thinking. 

1 A detailed summary will be found in Ency. Brit., XI ed., article Kabbalah , by Dr. Ginsburg 
and Dr. Cook. — Tr. 

2 See Windelband, Gesch. d. neueren Philosophic (1919), 1, 2.08; also Hinnebert, Kultur dcr Gegenwart, 
I, V (1913), p. 484. 

8 See Ency. Brit., XI ed., article Cartesianism (V, 42.1). — Tr. 
4 See Vol. H, p. 196. 



308 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 



in 



The separation of its ultimate elements is a task that the Gothic world- 
outlook and its philosophy leaves to the courage of the future. Just as the 
ornamentation of the cathedral and the primitive contemporary painting still 
shirk the decision between gold and wide atmosphere in backgrounds — be- 
tween the Magian and the Faustian aspects of God in Nature — so this early, 
timid, immature soul-image as it presents itself in this philosophy mingles 
characters derived from the Christian-Arabian metaphysic and its dualism of 
Spirit and Soul with Northern inklings of functional soul-forces not yet avowed. 
This is the discrepance that underlies the conflict concerning the primacy of 
will or reason, the basic problem of the Gothic philosophy, which men tried to 
solve now in the old Arabian, now in the new Western sense. It is this myth 
of the mind — which under ever-changing guises accompanies our philosophy 
throughout its course — that distinguishes it so sharply from every other. The 
rationalism of late Baroque, in all the pride of the self-assured city-spirit, 
decided in favour of the greater power of the Goddess Reason (Kant, the Jaco- 
bins); but almost immediately thereafter the 19th Century (Nietzsche above 
all) went back to the stronger formula Voluntas superior intellectu, and this 
indeed is in the blood of all of us. 1 Schopenhauer, the last of the great system- 
atists, has brought it down to the formula "World as Will and Idea," and it is 
only his ethic and not his metaphysic that decides against the Will. 

Here we begin to see by direct light the deep foundations and meaning of 
philosophizing within a Culture. For what we see here is the Faustian soul 
trying in labour of many centuries to paint a self-portrait, and one, moreover, 
that is in intimate concordance with its world-portrait. The Gothic world- 
view with its struggle of will and reason is in fact an expression of the life- 
feeling of the men of the Crusades, of the Hohenstaufen empire, of the great 
cathedrals. These men saw the soul thus, because they were thus. 

Will and thought in the soul-image correspond to Direction and Extension, History 
and Nature, Destiny and Causality in the image of the outer world. Both aspects of 
our basic characters emerge in our prime-symbol which is infinite extension. 
Will links the future to the present, thought the unlimited to the here. The 
historic future is distance-becoming, the boundless world-horizon distance-become — 
this is the meaning of the Faustian depth-experience. The direction-feeling 
as " Will" and the space-feeling as "Reason" are imagined as entities, almost 
as legend-figures; and out of them comes the picture that our psychologists 
of necessity abstract from the inner life. 

To call the Faustian Culture a Will-Culture is only another way of expressing 

1 When, therefore, in the present work also, precedence is consistently given to Time, Direction 
and Destiny over Space and Causality, this must not be supposed to be the result of reasoned proofs. 
It is the outcome of (quite unconscious) tendencies of life-feeling — the only mode of origin of 
philosophic ideas. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 309 

the eminently historical disposition of its soul. Our first-person idiom, our 
"ego habeo factum" — our dynamic syntax, that is — faithfully renders the 
"way of doing things " that results from this disposition and, with its positive 
directional energy, dominates not only our picture of the World-as-History but 
our own history to boot. This first person towers up in the Gothic architec- 
ture; the spire is an "I," the flying buttress is an "I." And therefore the 
entire Faustian ethic, from Thomas Aquinas to Kant, is an "excelsior" — ful- 
filment of an "I," ethical work upon an "I," justification of an "I" by faith 
and works; respect of the neighbour "Thou" for the sake of one's "I" and 
its happiness; and, lastly and supremely, immortality of the "I." 

Now this, precisely this, the genuine Russian regards as contemptible vain- 
glory. The Russian soul, will-less, having the limitless -plane as its prime- 
symbol, 1 seeks to grow up — serving, anonymous, self-oblivious — in the 
brother-world of the plane. To take "I" as the starting-point of relations 
with the neighbour, to elevate "I" morally through "IV love of near and 
dear, to repent for "IV own sake, are to him traits of Western vanity as 
presumptuous as is the upthrusting challenge to heaven of our cathedrals that 
he compares with his plane church-roof and its sprinkling of cupolas. Tolstoi's 
hero Nechludov looks after his moral "I" as he does after his finger-nails; 
this is just what betrays Tolstoi as belonging to the pseudomorphosis of Petrin- 
ism. But Raskolnikov is only something in a "we." His fault is the fault of 
all, 2 and even to regard his sin as special to himself is pride and vanity. Some- 
thing of the kind underlies the Magian soul-image also. "If any man come 
to me," says Jesus (Luke xiv, x6), "and hate not his father and mother, and 
wife, and children, and brethren, yea, and his own life (rijv iavrov ^ux40 *lso 9 z 
he cannot be my disciple"; and it is the same feeling that makes him call 
himself by the title that we mistranslate "Son of Man." 4 The Consensus of 
the Orthodox too is impersonal and condemns " I " as a sin. So too with the — 
truly Russian — conception of truth as the anonymous agreement of the elect. 

Classical man, belonging wholly to the present, is equally without that di- 
rectional energy by which our images of world and of soul are dominated, which 
sums all our sense-impressions as a path towards distance and our inward expe- 
riences as a feeling of future. He is will-less. The Classical idea of destiny and 
the symbol of the Doric column leave no doubt as to that. And the contest of 
thinking and willing that is the hidden theme of every serious portrait from 
Jan van Eyck to Marees is impossible in Classical portraiture, for in the Clas- 
sical soul-image thought (VoOs), the inner Zeus, is accompanied by the wholly 
ahistoric entities of animal and vegetative impulse (0u/z6s and kinBvuia), 

1 See p. 201. 2 See Vol. II, p. 363. 

8 In the German, " Vor allem aber sein eignes Ich." (But in Luther's Bible, characteristically, 
" Auch dazu sein eigen Leben.") — Tr. 

4 Barnasha. The underlying idea is not the filial relation, but an impersonal coming-up in the 
field of mankind. 



3 io THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

wholly somatic and wholly destitute of conscious direction and drive towards 
an end. 

The actual designation of the Faustian principle, which belongs to us and to 
us alone, is a matter of indifference. A name is in itself mere sound. Space, 
too, is a word that is capable of being employed with a thousand nuances — by 
mathematicians and philosophers, poets and painters — to express one and the 
same indescribable; a word that is ostensibly common to all mankind and yet, 
carrying a metaphysical under-meaning that we gave it and could not but 
give it, is in that sense valid only for our Culture. It is not the notion of 
44 Will," but the circumstance that we possess it while the Greeks were entirely 
ignorant of it, that gives it high symbolic import. At the very bottom, there is 
no distinction between space-as-depth and will. For the one, and therefore for 
the other also, the Classical languages had no expression. 1 The pure space of 
the Faustian world-picture is not mere extension, but efficient extension into 
the distance, as an overcoming of the merely sensuous, as a strain and tendency, 
as a spiritual will-to-power. I am fully aware how inadequate these peri- 
phrases are. It is entirely impossible to indicate in exact terms the difference 
between what we and what the men of the Indian or the Arabian Culture call 
space, or feel or imagine in the word. But that there is some radical distinc- 
tion is proved by the very different fundamentals of the respective mathematics, 
arts of form, and, above all, immediate utterances of life. We shall see how the 
identity of space and will comes to expression in the acts of Copernicus and 
Columbus — as well as in those of the Hohenstaufen and Napoleon — but it 
underlies also, in another way, the physical notions of fields of force and 
potential, ideas that it would be impossible to convey to the comprehension of 
any Greek. "Space as a priori form of perception," the formula in which Kant 
finally enunciated that for which Baroque philosophy had so long and tire- 
lessly striven, implies an assertion of supremacy of soul over the alien; the ego, 
through the form, is to rule the world. 2 

1 kdk\cj and pSvhonai imply, to have the intention, or wish, or inclination (fiovMj means counsel, 
council, plan, and Weko* has no equivalent noun). Voluntas is not a psychological concept but, like 
potestas and virtus, a thoroughly Roman and matter-of-fact designation for a practical, visible and 
outward asset — substantially, the mass of an individual's being. In like case, we use the word 
energy. The "will" of Napoleon is something very different from the energy of Napoleon, being, 
as it were, lift in contrast to weight. We must not confuse the outward-directed intelligence, which 
distinguishes the Romans as civilized men from the Greeks as cultured men, with " will" as under- 
stood here. Caesar is not a man of will in the Napoleonic sense. The idioms of Roman law, which 
represent the root-feeling of the Roman soul far better than those of poetry, are significant in this 
regard. Intention in the legal sense is animus (animus occidendt); the wish, directed to some criminal 
end, is dolus as distinct from the unintended wrongdoing (culpa). Voluntas is nowhere used as a 
technical term. 

2 The Chinese soul "wanders " in its world. This is the meaning of the East- Asiatic perspective, 
which places the vanishing point in the middle of the picture instead of in the depth as we do. The 
function of perspective is to subject things to the "I," which in ordering comprehends them; and it 
is a further indication that " will" — the claim to command the world — is absent from the Classi- 
cal make-up that its painting denies the perspective background. In Chinese perspective as in Chinese 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 311 

This is brought to expression in the depth-perspective of oil-painting which 
makes the space-field of the picture, conceived as infinite, dependent on the 
observer, who in choosing his distance asserts his dominion. It is this attrac- 
tion of distance that produces the type of the heroic and historically-felt land- 
scape that we have alike in the picture and the park of the Baroque period, 
and that is expressed also in the mathematico-physical concept of the vector. 
For centuries painting fought passionately to reach this symbol, which con- 
tains all that the words space, will and force are capable of indicating. And 
correspondingly we find in our metaphysic the steady tendency to formulate 
pairs of concepts (such as phenomena and things-in-themselves, will and idea, 
ego and non-ego) all of the same purely dynamic content, and — in utter 
contrast to Protagoras' s conception of man as the measure, not the creator, 
of things — to establish a functional dependence of things upon spirit. The 
Classical metaphysic regarded man as a body among bodies, and knowledge 
as a sort of contact, passing from the known to the knower and not vice versa. 
The optical theories of Anaxagoras and Democritus were far from admitting 
any active participation of the percipient in sense-perception. Plato never felt, 
as Kant was driven to feel, the ego as centre of a transcendent sphere of effect. 
The captives in his celebrated cave are really captives, the slaves and not the 
masters of outer impressions — recipients of light from the common sun and 
not themselves suns which irradiate the universe. 

The relation of our will to our imaginary space is evidenced again in the 
physical concept of space-energy — that utterly un-Classical idea in which 
even spatial interval figures as a form, and indeed as prime form thereof, for the 
notions of " capacity* ' and " intensity" rest upon it. We feel will and space, 
the dynamic world-picture of Galileo and Newton and the dynamic soul-picture 
which has will as its centre of gravity and centre of reference, as of identical 
significance. Both are Baroque ideas, symbols of the fully-ripened Faustian 
Culture. 

It is wrong, though it may be usual, to regard the cult of the "will" as 
common, if not to mankind, at any rate to Christendom, and derived in con- 
sequence from the Early- Arabian ethos. The connexion is merely a phenom- 
enon of the historical surface, and the deduction fails because it confuses 
the (formal) history of words and ideas such as "voluntas" with the course 
of their destiny, thereby missing the profoundly symbolical changes of con- 
notation that occur in that course. When Arabian psychologists — Murtada 
for instance — discuss the possibility of several "wills," a will that hangs 
together with the act, another will that independently precedes the act, another 



technique (see Vol. II, p. 617), directional energy is wanting, and it would not be illegitimate to call 
East-Asiatic perspective, in contrast with the powerful thrust into depth of our landscape-painting, 
a perspective of "Tao"; for the world-feeling indicated by that word is unmistakably the operative 
element in the picture. 



3 ii THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

that has no relation to the act at all, a will that is simply the parent of a 
willing, they are obviously working in deeper connotations of the Arabic 
word and on the basis of a soul-image that in structure differs entirely from 
the Faustian. 

For every man, whatever the Culture to which he belongs, the elements of 
the soul are the deities of an inner mythology. What Zeus was for the outer 
Olympus, vovs was for the inner world that every Greek was entirely con- 
scious of possessing — the throned lord of the other soul-elements. What 
"God" is for us, God as Breadth of the world, the Universal Power, the ever- 
present doer and provider, that also — reflected from the space of world into 
the imaginary space of soul and necessarily felt as an actual presence — is 
''Will." With the microcosmic dualism of the Magian Culture, with ruach and 
nephesh, pneuma and psyche, is necessarily associated the macrocosmic opposi- 
tion of God and Devil — Ormuzd and Ahriman for Persians, Yahwe and 
Beelzebub for Jews, Allah and Eblis for Mohammedans — in brief, Absolute 
Good and Absolute Evil. And note, further, how in the Western world-feeling 
both these oppositions pale together. In proportion as the Will emerges, out of 
the Gothic struggle for primacy between " intellectus " and "voluntas," as 
the centre of a spiritual monotheism, the figure of the Devil fades out of the real 
world. In the Baroque age the pantheism of the outer world immediately 
resulted in one of the inner world also; and the word "God" in antithesis to 
"world" has always — however interpreted in this or that case — implied 
exactly what is implied in the word "will" with respect to soul, viz., the 
power that moves all that is within its domain. 1 Thought no sooner leaves 
Religion for Science than we get the double myth of concepts, in physics and 
psychology. The concepts "force," "mass," "will," "passion" rest not on 
objective experience but on a life-feeling. Darwinism is nothing but a specially 
shallow formulation of this feeling. No Greek would have used the word 
"Nature" as our biology employs it, in the sense of an absolute and methodical 
activity. "The will of God" for us is a pleonasm — God (or "Nature," as 
some say) is nothing but will. After the Renaissance the notion of God sheds 
the old sensuous and personal traits (omnipresence and omnipotence are almost 
mathematical concepts), becomes little by little identical with the notion of 
infinite space and in becoming so becomes transcendent world-will. And there- 
fore it is that about 1700 painting has to yield to instrumental music — the 
only art that in the end is capable of clearly expressing what we feel about God. 
Consider, in contrast with this, the gods of Homer. Zeus emphatically does 
not possess full powers over the world, but is simply "primus inter pares," a 
body amongst bodies, as the Apollinian world-feeling requires. Blind necessity, 

1 Obviously, atheism is no exception to this. When a Materialist or Darwinian speaks of a 
"Nature" that orders everything, that effects selections, that produces and destroys anything, he 
differs only to the extent of one word from the 18th-century Deist. The world-feeling has undergone 
no change. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 313 

the Ananke immanent in the cosmos of Classical consciousness, is in no sense 
dependent upon him; on the contrary, the Gods are subordinate to It. iEschylus 
says so outright in a powerful passage of the " Prometheus,' ' * but it is per- 
ceptible enough even in Homer, e.g., in the Strife of the Gods and in that 
decisive passage in which Zeus takes up the scales of destiny, not to settle, but 
to learn, the fate of Hector. 2 The Classical soul, therefore, with its parts and 
its properties, imagines itself as an Olympus of little gods, and to keep these 
at peace and in harmony with one another is the ideal of the Greek life-ethic 
of aoxjypoavvrj and &rapa£ta. More than one of the philosophers betrays the 
connexion by calling vovs, the highest part of the soul, Zeus. Aristotle as- 
signs to his deity the single function of dewpia, contemplation, and this is 
Diogenes's ideal also — a completely-matured static of life in contrast to the 
equally ripe dynamic of our i8th-Century ideal. 

The enigmatic Something in the soul-image that is called ' 4 will, ' ' the passion 
of the third dimension, is therefore quite specially a creation of the Baroque, like 
the perspective of oil-painting and the force-idea of modern physics and the 
tone-world of instrumental music. In every case the Gothic had foreshadowed 
what these intellectualizing centuries brought to fullness. Here, where we are 
trying to take in the cast of Faustian life in contradiction to that of all other 
lives, what we have to do is to keep a firm hold on the fact that the primary 
words will, space, force, God, upborne by and permeated with connotations 
of Faustian feeling, are emblems, are the effective framework that sustains the 
great and kindred form-worlds in which this being expresses itself. It has been 
believed, hitherto, that in these matters one was holding in one's grip a body 
of eternal facts, of facts-in-themselves, which sooner or later would be suc- 
cessfully treated, "known," and proved by the methods of critical research. 
This illusion of natural science was shared by psychology also. But the view 
that these 4 4 universally-valid ' ' fundamentals belong merely to the Baroque style of 
apprehension and comprehension, that as expression-forms they are only of tran- 
sitory significance, and that they are only "true" for the Western type of 
intellect, alters the whole meaning of those sciences and leads us to look upon 
them not only as subjects of systematic cognition but also, and in a far higher 
degree, as objects of physiognomic study. 

Baroque architecture began, as we have seen, when Michelangelo replaced 
the tectonic elements of the Renaissance, support and load, by those of dyna- 
mics, force and mass. While Brunelleschi's chapel of the Pazzi in Florence 
expresses a bright composedness, Vignola's facade of the Gesu in Rome is will 
become stone. The new style in its ecclesiastical form has been designated the 
"Jesuit," and indeed there is an inward connexion between the achievement of 

1 Lines 52.5—534: 

XO. Tobruv &pa Zebs kanv had evkar epos; 

HP. (Akow &veic<pbyoi ye rijv TreTrpwfxkiTiv, etc. — Tr. 
a Iliad, XXII, 108-115. — Tr. 



3i4 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

Vignola and Giacomo Delia Porta and the creation by Ignatius Loyola of the 
Order that stands for the pure and abstract will of the Church, 1 just as there is 
between the invisible operations and the unlimited range of the Order and the 
arts of Calculus and Fugue. 

Henceforward, then, the reader will not be shocked if we speak of a Baroque, 
and even of a Jesuit, style in psychology, mathematics, and pure physics. The form- 
language of dynamics, which puts the energetic contrast of capacity and inten- 
sity in place of the volitionless somatic contrast of material and form, is one 
common to all the mind-creations of those centuries. 



IV 



The question is now: How far is the man of this Culture himself fulfilling 
what the soul-image that he has created requires of him? If we can, to-day, 
state the theme of Western physics quite generally to be efficient space, we have 
ipso facto defined also the kind of existence, the content of existence as lived by 
contemporary man. We, as Faustian natures, are accustomed to take note of 
the individual according to his effective and not according to his plastic-static 
appearance in the field of our life-experience. We measure what a man is by 
his activity, which may be directed inwardly or outwardly, and we judge all 
intentions, reasons, powers, convictions and habits entirely by this directed- 
ness. The word with which we sum up this aspect is character. We habitually 
speak of the "character" of heads and landscapes; of ornaments, brush-strokes 
and scripts; of whole arts and ages and Cultures. The art of the characteristic 
is, above all, Baroque music — alike in respect of its melody and its instrumen- 
tation. Here again is a word indicating an indescribable, a something that 
emphasizes, among all the Cultures, the Faustian in particular. And the deep 
relation between this word "character" and the word "will" is unmistakable; 
what will is in the soul-image, character is in the picture of life as we see it, 
the Western life that is self-evident to Western men. It is the fundamental 
postulate of all our ethical systems, differ otherwise as they may in their 
metaphysical or practical precepts, that man has character. Character, which 
forms itself in the stream of the world — the personality, the relation of living to 
doing — is a Faustian impression of the man made by the man; and, significantly 
enough, just as in the physical world-picture it has proved impossible (in spite 
of the most rigorous theoretical examination) to separate the vectorial idea 

1 The great part played by learned Jesuits in the development of theoretical physics must not be 
overlooked. Father Boscovich, with his system of atomic forces (1759), made the first serious ad- 
vance beyond Newton. The idea of the equivalence of God and pure space is even more evident in 
Jesuit work than it is in that of the Jansenists of Port Royal with whom Descartes and Pascal were 
associated. 

(Boscovich's atomic theory is discussed by James Clerk Maxwell in Ency. Brit., XI ed., XVIII, 
655 — a reference that, for more general reasons, no student of the Faustian-as-scientist should fail 
to follow up. — TrJ) 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 315 

of forces from the idea of motion (because of the inherent directional quality 
of the vector), so also it is impossible to draw a strict distinction between will 
and soul, character and life. At the height of our Culture, certainly since the 
17th Century, we feel the word life ' ' as a pure and simple synonym of willing. 
Expressions like living force, life-will, active energy, abound in our ethical 
literature and their import is taken for granted, whereas the Age of Pericles 
could not even have translated them into its language. 

Hitherto the pretension of each and every morale to universal validity has 
obscured the fact that every Culture, as a homogeneous being of higher order, 
possesses a moral constitution proper to itself. There are as many morales as there 
are Cultures. Nietzsche was the first to have an inkling of this; but he never 
came anywhere near to a really objective morphology of morale " beyond good " 
(all good) " and evil" (all evil). He evaluated Classical, Indian, Christian and 
Renaissance morale by his own criteria instead of understanding the style of 
them as a symbol. And yet if anything could detect the prime-phenomenon of 
Morale as such, it should have been the historical insight of a Westerner. 
However, it appears that we are only now ripe enough for such a study. The 
conception of mankind as an active, fighting, progressing whole is (and has 
been since Joachim of Floris and the Crusades) so necessary an idea for us that 
we find it hard indeed to realize that it is an exclusively Western hypothesis, 
living and valid only for a season. To the Classical spirit mankind appears as 
a stationary mass, and correspondingly there is that quite dissimilar morale 
that we can trace from the Homeric dawn to the time of the Roman Empire. 
And, more generally, we shall find that the immense activity of the Faustian 
life-feeling is most nearly matched in the Chinese and the Egyptian, and the 
rigorous passivity of the Classical in the Indian. 

If ever there was a group of nations that kept the "struggle for existence" 
constantly before its eyes, it was the Classical Culture. All the cities, big and 
little, fought one another to sheer extinction, without plan or purpose, without 
mercy, body against body, under the stimulus of a completely anti-historical 
instinct. But Greek ethics, notwithstanding Heraclitus, were far from making 
struggle an ethical principle. The Stoics and the Epicureans alike preached 
abstention from it as an ideal. The overcoming of resistances may far more 
justly be called the typical impulse of the Western soul. Activity, determi- 
nation, self-control, are postulates. To battle against the comfortable fore- 
grounds of life, against the impressions of the moment, against what is near, 
tangible and easy, to win through to that which has generality and duration 
and links past and future — these are the sum of all Faustian imperatives 
from earliest Gothic to Kant and Fichte, and far beyond them again to the 
Ethos of immense power and will exhibited in our States, our economic sys- 
tems and our technics. The carpe diem, the saturated being, of the Classical 
standpoint is the most direct contrary of that which is felt by Goethe and Kant 



316 THE DECLINE OP THE WEST 

and Pascal, by Church and Freethinker, as alone possessing value — active, 
fighting and victorious being. 1 

As all the forms of Dynamic (whether pictorial, musical, physical, social 
or political) are concerned with the working-out of infinite relations and deal, 
not with the individual case and the sum of individual cases as the Classical 
physics had done, but with the typical course or process and its functional rule, 
"character " must be understood as that which remains in principle constant in 
the working-out of life; where there is no such constant we speak of "lack of 
character." It is character — the form in virtue of which a moving existence 
can combine the highest constancy in the essential with the maximum varia- 
bility in the details — that makes telling biography (such as Goethe's " Wahr- 
heit und Dichtung "), possible at all. Plutarch's truly Classical biographies are 
by comparison mere collections of anecdotes strung together chronologically and 
not ordered pictures of historical development, and it will hardly be disputed 
that only this second kind of biography is imaginable in connexion with 
Alcibiades or Pericles or, for that matter, any purely Apollinian figure. Their 
experiences lack, not mass, but relation; there is something atomic about them. 
Similarly in the field of Science the Greek did not merely forget to look for 
general laws in the sum of his experiential data; in his cosmos they were simply 
not there to be found. 

It follows that the sciences of character-study, particularly physiognomy 
and graphology, would not be able to glean much in the Classical field. Its 
handwriting we do not know, but we do know that its ornament, as com- 
pared with the Gothic, is of incredible simplicity and feebleness of character- 
expression — think of the Meander and the Acanthus-shoot. On the other 
hand, it has never been surpassed in timeless evenness. 

It goes without saying that we, when we turn to look into the Classical 
life-feeling, must find there some basic element of ethical values that is anti- 
thetical to " character* ' in the same way as the statue is antithetical to the 
fugue. Euclidean geometry to Analysis, and body to space. We find it in the 
Gesture. It is this that provides the necessary foundation for a spiritual static. 
The word that stands in the Classical vocabulary where "personality " stands 
in our own is irpoatiwov, "persona" — namely rSle or mask. In late Greek or 
Roman speech it means the public aspect and mien of a man, which for Classical 

1 Luther placed practical activity (the day's demands, as Goethe said) at the very centre of 
morale, and that is one of the main reasons why it was to the deeper natures that Protestantism 
appealed most cogently. Works of piety devoid of directional energy (in the sense that wc give the 
words here) fell at once from the high esteem in which they had been sustained (as the Renaissance 
was sustained) by a relic of Southern feeling. On ethical grounds monasticism thenceforth falls 
into ever-increasing disrepute. In the Gothic Age entry into the cloister, the renunciation of care, 
deed and will, had been an act of the loftiest ethical character — the highest sacrifice that it was pos- 
sible to imagine, that of life. But in the Baroque even Roman Catholics no longer felt thus about 
it. And the institutions, no longer of renunciation but merely of inactive comfort, went down before 
the spirit of the Enlightenment. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 317 

man is tantamount to the essence and kernel of him. An orator was described 
as speaking in the irpoa&irov — not the character or the vein as we should say 
— of a priest or a soldier. The slave was iLirpdaooiros — that is, he had no 
attitude or figure in the public life — but not baktiaros — that is, he did have 
a soul. The idea that Destiny had assigned the r&le of king or general to a man 
was expressed by Romans in the words persona regis, imperatoris. 1 The Apol- 
linian cast of life is manifest enough here. What is indicated is not the person- 
ality (that is, an unfolding of inward possibilities in active striving) but a 
permanent and self-contained posture strictly adapted to a so-to-say plastic 
ideal of being. It is only in the Classical ethic that Beauty plays a dis- 
tinct r&le. However labelled — as <ro)<t>poavvrj, KakoK&yaJdLa or drapajta — it 
always amounts to the well-ordered group of tangible and publicly evident 
traits, defined for other men rather than specific to one's self. A man was the 
object and not the subject of outward life. The pure present, the moment, the 
foreground were not conquered but worked up. The notion of an inward life 
is impossible in this connexion. The significance of Aristotle's phrase fwov 
tto\itIkov — quite untranslatable and habitually translated with a Western 
connotation — is that it refers to men who are nothing when single and 
lonely (what could be more preposterous than an Athenian Robinson 
Crusoe!) and only count for anything when in a plurality, in agora or forum, 
where each reflects his neighbour and thus, only thus, acquires a genuine 
reality. It is all implicit in the phrase a^fxara irdXews, used for the burghers 
of the city. And thus we see that the Portrait, the centre of Baroque art, is 
identical with the representation of a man to the extent that he possesses char- 
acter, and that in the best age of Attic the representation of a man in respect 
of his attitude, as persona, necessarily leans to the form-ideal of the nude statue. 



This opposition, further, has produced forms of tragedy that differ from 
one another radically in every respect. The Faustian character-drama and 
the Apollinian drama of noble gesture have in fact nothing but name in 
common. 2 

Starting, significantly enough, from Seneca and not from iEschylus and 
Sophocles 3 (just as the contemporary architecture linked itself with Imperial 
Rome and not with Passtum), the Baroque drama with ever-increasing emphasis 
makes character instead of occurrence its centre of gravity, the origin of a 
system of spiritual co-ordinates (so to express it) which gives the scenic facts 
position, sense, and value in relation to itself. The outcome is a tragedy of 

1 irpo<rS>irov meant in the older Greek "visage," and later, in Athens, "mask." As late as 
Aristotle the word is not yet in use for person. "Persona," originally also a theatre-mask, came to 
have a juristic application, and in Roman Imperial times the pregnant Roman sense of this word 
affected the Greek vpoaQvov also. See R. Hirzel, Die Person (1914), pp. 40 et seq. 

a See pp. 117 et seq. s W. Crcizenach, Gesch, d. neueren Dramas (1918), II, 346 et seq. 



318 THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

willing, of efficient forces, of inward movement not necessarily exhibited in 
visible form, whereas Sophocles's method was to employ a minimum of hap- 
pening and to put it behind the scenes particularly by means of the artifice of 
the " messenger/ ' The Classical tragedy relates to general situations and not 
particular personalities. It is specifically described by Aristotle as /xt/o^cris ote 
6.vdp6)Trcbv dXXd irpa^eccs nal (tiov. That which in his Poetica — assuredly the 
most fateful of all books for our poetry — he calls fjdos, namely the ideal 
bearing of the ideal Hellene in a painful situation, has as little in common with 
our notion of character (viz., a constitution of the ego which determines events) 
as a surface in Euclidean geometry has with the like-named concept in Rie- 
mann's theory of algebraic equations. It has, unfortunately, been our habit 
for centuries past to translate fjdos as "character" instead of paraphrasing it 
(exact rendering is almost impossible) by "r61e," "bearing" or "gesture"; to 
reproduce myth, yvdos, which is timeless occurrence ', by "action"; and to derive 
hpaixa from "doing." It is Othello, Don Quixote, Le Misanthrope, Werther 
and Hedda Gabler that are characters, and the tragedy consists in the mere 
existence of human beings thus constituted in their respective milieux. Their 
struggle — whether against this world or the next, or themselves — is forced 
on them by their character and not by anything coming from outside; a soul 
is placed in a web of contradictory relations that admits of no net solution. 
Classical stage-figures, on the contrary, are r&les and not characters; over and 
over again the same figures appear — the old man, the slayer, the lover, all 
slow-moving bodies under masks and on stilts. Thus in Classical drama — 
even of the Late period — the mask is an element of profound symbolic neces- 
sity, whereas our pieces would not be regarded as played at all without the play 
of features. It is no answer to point to the great size of the Greek theatre, for 
even the strolling player — even the portrait-statue l — wore a mask, and had 
there been any spiritual need of a more intimate setting the required archi- 
tectural form would have been forthcoming quickly enough. 

In the tragedy of a character, what happens is the outcome of a long inner 
development. But in what befalls Ajax and Philoctetes, Antigone and Electra, 
their psychological antecedents (even supposing them to have any) play no 
part. The decisive event comes upon them, brutally, as accident, from with- 
out, and it might have befallen another in the same way and with the same 
result. It would not be necessary even for that other to be of the same sex. 

It is not enough to distinguish Classical and Western tragedy merely as 
action-drama and event-drama. Faustian tragedy is biographical, Classical anec- 
dotal; that is, the one deals with the sense of a whole life and the other with the 
content of the single moment. 2 What relation, for instance, has the entire 

1 See p. 2.65. 

2 We too have our anecdote, but it is of our own type and diametrically opposed to the Classical. 
It is the "short story" (Novell*) — the story of Cervantes, Kleist, Hoffmann and Storm — and we 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 319 

inward past of CEdipus or Orestes to the shattering event that suddenly meets 
him on his way? * There is one sort of destiny, then, that strikes like a flash 
of lightning, and just as blindly, and another that interweaves itself with the 
course of a life, an invisible thread 2 that yet distinguishes this particular life 
from all others. There is not the smallest trait in the past existence of Othello 
— that masterpiece of psychological analysis — that has not some bearing on 
the catastrophe. Race-hatred, the isolation of the upstart amongst the patri- 
cians, the Moor as soldier and as child of Nature, the loneliness of the ageing 
bachelor — all these things have their significance. Lear, too, and Hamlet — 
compare the exposition of these characters with that of Sophoclean pieces. 
They are psychological expositions through-and-through and not summations 
of outward data. The psychologist, in our sense of the word, namely the fine 
student (hardly nowadays to be distinguished from the poet) of spiritual turn- 
ing-points, was entirely unknown to the Greeks. They were no more analytical 
in the field of soul than in that of number; vis-a-vis the Classical soul, how could 
they be so? " Psychology* ' in fact is the proper designation for the Western way 
of fashioning men; the word holds good for a portrait by Rembrandt as for the 
music of "Tristan/* for Stendhal's Julian Sorel as for Dante's "Vita Nuova." 
The like of it is not to be found in any other Culture. If there is anything 
that the Classical arts scrupulously exclude it is this, for psychology is the 
form in which art handles man as incarnate will and not as a&fia. To call 
Euripides a psychologist is to betray ignorance of what psychology is. What 
an abundance of character there is even in the mere mythology of the North 
with its sly dwarfs, its lumpy giants, its teasing elves, its Loki, Baldr and the 
restl Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, Ares are simply "men,** Hermes the "youth," 
Athene a maturer Aphrodite, and the minor gods — as the later plastic 
shows — distinguishable only by the labels. And the same is true without 
reservation of the figures of the Attic stage. In Wolfram von Eschenbach, Cer- 
vantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, the tragic is individual, life develops from within 
outwards, dynamic, functional, and the life-courses are only fully understand- 
able with reference to the historical background of the century. But in the 
great tragedians of Athens it comes. from outside, it is static, Euclidean. To 
repeat a phrase already used in connexion with world-history, the shattering 
event is epochal in the former and merely episodic in the latter, even the finale 
of death being only the last bead in the string of sheer accidents that makes 
up an existence. 

A Baroq ue tragedy is nothing but this same directive character brought 

admire it in proportion as we are made to feel that its motive is possible only this once, at this time 
and with these people, whereas the mythic type of anecdote, the Fable, is judged by precisely opposite 
criteria. 

1 See pp. 143 et seq. 

2 The Fates of the Greeks are represented as spinning, measuring out and cutting the thread of a 
man's destiny, but not as weaving it into the web of his life. It is a mere dimension. — Tr. 



3io THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

into and developed in the light-world, and shown as a curve instead of as an 
equation, as kinetic instead of as potential energy. The visible person is the 
character as potential, the action the character at work. This, under the heap 
of Classicist reminiscences and misunderstandings that still hides it, is the 
whole meaning of our idea of Tragedy. The tragic man of the Classical is a 
Euclidean body that is struck by the Heimarmene in a position that it did not 
choose and cannot alter, but is seen, in the light that plays from without upon 
its surfaces, to be indeformable quand mime. This is the sense in which Aga- 
memnon is vavapxov o-w/za fSaalXeiov and in which (Edipus's o-w/xa is subjected 
to the Oracle. 1 Down to Alexander the significant figures of Greek history 
astonish us with their inelasticity; not one of them, apparently, undergoes 
in the battle of life any such inward transformation as those which we know 
took place in Luther and Loyola. What we are prone — too prone — to call 
"characterization" in Greek drama is nothing but the reflection of events 
upon the fjdos of the hero, never the reflection of a personality on events. 

Of deep necessity, therefore, we Faustians understand drama as a maximum 
of activity; and, of deep necessity also, the Greek understood it as a maximum 
of passivity. 2 Speaking generally, the Attic tragedy had no "action*' at all. 
The Mysteries were purely Spa/zara or dpuneva, i.e., ritual performances, and 
it was from the Mystery-form with its "peripeteia" that iEschylus (himself 
an Eleusinian) derived the high drama that he created. Aristotle describes 
tragedy as the imitation of an occurrence. This imitation is identical with the 
"profanation" of the mysteries; and we know that iEschylus went further 
and made the sacral vestments of the Eleusinian priesthood the regular costume 
of the Attic stage, and was accused on that account. 3 For the 5pa/za proper, 
with its reversal from lamentation to joy, consisted not in the fable that was 
narrated but in the ritual action that lay behind it, and was understood and 
felt by the spectator as deeply symbolic. With this element of the non-Homeric 
early religion 4 there became associated another, a boorish — the burlesque 
(whether phallic or dithyrambic) scenes of the spring festivals of Demeter and 
Dionysus. The beast-dances 5 and the accompanying song were the germ of 

1 See p. 1x9. 

2 The evolution of meaning in the Classical words pathos and passico corresponds with this. The 
second was formed from the first only in the Imperial period, and carried its original sense in the 
"Passion" of Christ. It was in the early Gothic times, and particularly in the language of the 
Franciscan "Zealots" and the disciples of Joachim of Floris, that its meaning underwent the deci- 
sive reversal. Expressing thenceforward a condition of profound excitement which strained to dis- 
charge itself, it became finally a generic name for all spiritual dynamic; in this sense of strong will 
and directional energy it was brought into German as Leidenschaft by Zesen in 1647. 

8 The Eleusinian mysteries contained no secrets at all. Everyone knew what went on. But 
upon the believers they exercised a strange and overpowering effect, and the "betrayal" consisted in 
profaning them by imitating their holy forms outside the temple-precinct. See, further, A. Dieterich, 
Kleine Schriften (191 1), pp. 414 et seq. 4 See Vol. II, pp. 345 et seq. 

5 The dancers were goats, Silenus as leader of the dance wore a horsetail, but Aristophanes 's 
"Birds," "Frogs" and "Wasps" suggest that there were still other animal disguises. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 3x1 

the tragic Chorus which puts itself before the actor or "answerer" of Thespis 

(534). 

The genuine tragedy grew up out of the solemn death-lament (threnos, 

nasnia). At some time or other the joyous play of the Dionysus festival (which 
also was a soul-feast) became a mourners' chorus of men, the Satyr-play being 
relegated to the end. In 494 Phrynichus produced the "Fall of Miletus" — 
not a historical drama but a lament of the women of Miletus — and was 
heavily fined for thus recalling the public calamity. It was iEschylus's in- 
troduction of the second actor that accomplished the essential of Classical 
tragedy; the lament as given theme was thenceforward subordinated to the 
visual presentation of a great human suffering as -present motive. The foreground- 
story (fxWos) is not " action* * but the occasion for the songs of the Chorus, 
which still constitutes the rpaycpSLa proper. It is immaterial whether the 
occurrence is indicated by narrative or exposition. The spectator was in solemn 
mood and he felt himself and his own fate to be meant in the words of pathos. 
It was in him that the Trepnrkreia, the central element of the holy pageant, 
took place. Whatever the environment of message and tale, the liturgical 
lament for the woe of mankind remained always the centre of gravity of the 
whole, as we see more particularly in the " Prometheus,* * the Agamemnon * ' 
and the "GEdipus Rex." But presently — at the very time when in Polycletus 
the pure plastic was triumphing over the fresco x — there emerges high above 
the lament the grandeur of human endurance, the attitude, the fjdos of the 
Hero. The theme is, not the heroic Doer whose will surges and breaks against 
the resistance of alien powers or the demons in his own breast, but the will- 
less Patient whose somatic existence is — gratuitously — destroyed. The Pro- 
metheus trilogy of iEschylus begins just where Goethe would in all probability 
have left off. King Lear's madness is the issue of the tragic action, but Soph- 
ocles's Ajax is made mad by Athene before the drama opens — here is the 
difference between a character and an operated figure. Fear and compassion, 
in fact, are, as Aristotle says, the necessary effect of Greek tragedy upon the 
Greek (and only the Greek) spectator, as is evident at once from his choice of 
the most effective scenes, which are those of piteous crash of fortune (jepnrkTeia) 
and of recognition (ava.yv&pi(ns). In the first, the ruling impression is <£6/3os 
(terror) and in the second it is k\e6s (pity), and the KaOapais in the spec- 
tator presupposes his existence-ideal to be that of drapa£(a. 2 The Classi- 

1 See pp. 183 et seq. 

2 As the student of cultural history to-day is not necessarily familiar with technical Greek, it 
may be helpful to reproduce from Cornish's edition of Smith's "Greek and Roman Antiquities," 
s.v. "Tragoedia," the following paragraph, as clear as it is succinct: 

"Tragedy is described by Aristotle (Poet., VI, %) as effecting by means of pity and terror that 
purgation [of the soul] (Mapo-is) which belongs to [is proper for] such feelings." . . . Tragedy 
excites pity and terror by presenting to the mind things which are truly pitiable and terrible. When 
pity and terror are moved, as tragedy moves them, by a worthy cause, then the mind experiences 
that sense of relief which comes from finding an outlet for a natural energy. And thus the impressions 



3zi THE DECLINEOF THE WEST 

cal soul is pure "present," pure o-wjua, unmoved and point-formed being. To 
see this imperilled by the jealousy of the Gods or by that blind chance that may 
crash upon any man's head without reason and without warning, is the most 
fearful of all experiences. The very roots of Greek being are struck at by what 
for the challenging Faustian is the first stimulus to living activity. And then — 
to find one's self delivered, to see the sun come out again and the dark thunder 
clouds huddle themselves away on the remote horizon, to rejoice profoundly in 
the admired grand gesture, to see the tortured mythical soul breathe again — 
that is the ica6ap<ns. But it presupposes a kind of life-feeling that is entirely 
alien to us, the very word being hardly translatable into our languages and our 
sensations. It took all the aesthetic industry and assertiveness of the Baroque 
and of Classicism, backed by the meekest submissiveness before ancient texts, 
to persuade us that this is the spiritual basis of our own tragedy as well. And 
no wonder. For the fact is that the effect of our tragedy is precisely the oppo- 
site. It does not deliver us from deadweight pressure of events, but evokes 
active dynamic elements in us, stings us, stimulates us. It awakens the primary 
feelings of an energetic human being, the fierceness and the joy of tension, 
danger, violent deed, victory, crime, the triumph of overcoming and destroying 
— feelings that have slumbered in the depths of every Northern soul since the 
days of the Vikings, the Hohenstaufen and the Crusades. That is Shakespearian 
effect. A Greek would not have tolerated Macbeth, nor, generally, would he 
have comprehended the meaning of this mighty art of directional biography at 
all. That figures like Richard III, Don Juan, Faust, Michael Kohlhaas, Golo — 
un-Classical from top to toe — awaken in us not sympathy but a deep and 
strange envy, not fear but a mysterious desire to suffer, to suffer-with ("com- 
passion" of quite another sort), is visibly — even to-day when Faustian 
tragedy in its final form, the German, is dead at last — the standing motive of 
the literature of our Alexandrian phase. In the "sensational "adventure- 
and detective-story, and still more recently in the cinema-drama (the equivalent 
of the Late-Classical mimes), a relic of the unrestrainable Faustian impulse to 
conquer and discover is still palpable. 

There are corresponding differences between the Apollinian and the Faust- 
ian outlook in the forms of dramatic presentation, which are the complement 
of the poetic idea. The antique drama is a piece of plastic, a group of pathetic 
scenes conceived as reliefs, a pageant of gigantic marionettes disposed against 
the definitive plane of the back-wall. 1 Presentation is entirely that of grandly- 
imagined gestures, the meagre facts of the fable being solemnly recited rather 

made by Tragedy leave behind them in the spectator a temperate and harmonious state of the soul. 
Similarly Aristotle speaks of the enthusiastic worshippers of Dionysus as obtaining a KhJBapavs, 
a healthful relief, by the "lyric utterance of their sacred frenzy." — Tr. 

1 The evolution of ideals of stage-presentation in the minds of iEschylus, Sophocles and Euripi- 
des successively is perhaps comparable with that of sculptural style which we see in the pediments 
of iEgina, of Olympia and of the Parthenon. 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 32.3 

than presented. The technique of Western drama aims at just the opposite — 
unbroken movement and strict exclusion of flat static moments. The famous 
"three unities" of place, time and action, as unconsciously evolved (though 
not expressly formulated) in Athens, are a paraphrase of the type of the Clas- 
sical marble statue and, like it, an indication of what classical man, the man 
of the Polis and the pure present and the gesture, felt about life. The unities 
are all, effectively, negative, denials of past and future, repudiation of all spiritual 
action-at-a-distance. They can be summed in the one word &rapa£(a. The 
postulates of these "unities" must not be confused with the superficially 
similar postulates in the drama of the Romance peoples. The Spanish theatre 
of the 16th Century bowed itself to the authority of "Classical" rules, but 
it is easy to see the influence of noblesse oblige in this; Castilian dignity responded 
to the appeal without knowing,* or indeed troubling to. find out, the original 
sense of the rules. The great Spanish dramatists, Tirso da Molina above all, 
fashioned the "unities" of the Baroque, but not as metaphysical negations, 
but purely as expressions of the spirit of high courtesy, and it was as such that 
Corneille, the docile pupil of Spanish "grandezza," borrowed them. It was a 
fateful step. If Florence threw herself into the imitation of the Classical sculp- 
ture — at which everyone marvelled and of which no one possessed the final 
criteria — no harm .was done, for there was by then no Northern plastic to 
suffer thereby. But with tragedy it was another matter. Here there was the 
possibility of a mighty drama, purely Faustian, of unimagined forms and 
daring. That this did not appear, that^for all the greatness of Shakespeare the 
Teutonic drama never quite shook off the spell of misunderstood convention, 
was the consequence of blind faith in the authority of Aristotle. What might 
not have come out of Baroque drama had it remained under the impression of 
the knightly epic and the Gothic Easter-play and Mystery, in the near neigh- 
bourhood of Oratorios and Passions, without ever hearing of the Greek theatre! 
A tragedy issuing from the spirit of contrapuntal music, free of limitations 
proper to plastic but here meaningless, a dramatic poetry that from Orlando 
Lasso and Palestrina could develop — side by side with Heinrich Schiitz, Bach, 
Handel, Gluck and Beethoven, but entirely free — to a pure form of its own: 
that was what was possible, and that was what did not happen;^and it is only 
to the fortunate circumstance that the whole of the fresco-art of Hellas has 
been lost that we owe the inward freedom of our oil-painting. 

vi 

The unities were not sufficient for the Attic drama. It demanded, further, the 
rigid mask in lieu of facial play, thus forbidding spiritual characterization in 
the same spirit as Attic sentiment forbade likeness-statuary. It demanded more- 
than-life-sized figures and got them by means of the cothurnus and by padding 
and draping the actor till he could scarcely move, thus eliminating all his 



3M THE DECLINE OF THE WEST 

individuality. Lastly, it required monotonous sing-song delivery, which it 
ensured by means of a mouthpiece fixed in the mask. 

The bare text as we read it to-day (not without reading into it the spirit 
of Goethe and Shakespeare and of our perspective vision) conveys little of the 
deeper significance of these dramas. Classical art-works were created entirely 
for the eye, even the physical eye, of Classical man, and the secrets reveal 
themselves only when put in sensuous forms. And here our attention is drawn 
to a feature of Greek tragedy that any true tragedy of the Faustian style must 
find intolerable, the continual presence of the Chorus. The Chorus is the 
primitive tragedy, for without it the fjdos would be impossible. Character 
one possesses for one's self, but attitude has meaning only in relation to others. 

This Chorus as crowd (the ideal opposite to the lonely or inward man and 
the monologue of the West), this Chorus which is always there, the witness 
of every "soliloquy," this Chorus by which, in the stage-life as in the real 
life, fear before the boundless and the void is banished, is truly Apollinian. 
Self-review as a public action, pompous public mourning in lieu of the solitary 
anguish of the bedchamber, the tears and lamentations that fill a whole series 
of dramas like the "Philoctetes" and the "Trachinise," the impossibility of 
being alone, the feeling of the Polis, all the feminine of this Culture that we 
see idealized in the Belvedere Apollo, betrays itself in this symbol of the 
Chorus. In comparison with this kind of drama, Shakespeare's is a single 
monologue. Even in the conversations, even in the group-scenes we are sensible 
of the immense inner distance between the persons, each of whom at bottom 
is only talking with himself. Nothing can overcome this spiritual remoteness. 
It is felt in Hamlet as in "Tasso " and in Don Quixote as in Werther, but even 
Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzeval is filled with and stamped by the sense of 
infinity. The distinction holds for all Western poetry against all Classical. All 
our lyric verse from Walther von der Vogelweide to Goethe and from Goethe to 
the poems of our dying world-cities is monologue, while the Classical lyric is a 
choral lyric, a singing before witnesses. The one is received inwardly, in word- 
less reading, as soundless music, and the other is publicly recited. The one be- 
longs to the still chamber and is spread by means of the book, the other belongs 
to the place where it is voiced. 

Thus, although the Eleusinkn Mysteries and the Thracian festival of the 
epiphany of Dionysus had been nocturnal celebrations, the art of Thespis de- 
veloped, as its inmost nature required, as a scene of the morning and the full 
sunlight. On the contrary, our Western popular and Passion plays, which 
originated in the sermon of allocated parts and were produced first by priests 
in the church, and then by laymen in the open square, on the mornings of high 
festivals, led almost unnoticed to an art of evening and night. Already in 
Shakespeare's time performances took place in the late afternoon, and by 
Goethe's this mystical sense of a proper relation between art-work and light- 



ON THE FORM OF THE SOUL 3x5 

setting had attained its object. In general, every art and every Culture has its 
significant times of day. The music of the 18th Century is a music of the dark- 
ness and the inner eye, and the plastic of Athens is an art of cloudless day. 
That this is no superficial contrast we can see by comparing the Gothic plastic, 
wrapped eternally in 44 dim religious light," and the Ionic flute, the instrument 
of high noon. The candle affirms and the sunlight denies space as the opposite 
of things. At night the universe of space triumphs over matter, at midday 
things and nearness assert themselves and space is repudiated. The same con- 
trast appears in Attic fresco and Northern oil-painting, and in the symbols of 
Helios and Pan and those of the starry night and red sunset. It is at midnight, 
too, and particularly in the twelve long nights after Christmas, that the souls 
of our dead walk abroad. In the Classical world, the souls belong to the day — 
even the early Church still speaks of the dwdeKarjuepov, the twelve dedicated 
days; but with the awakening of the Faustian soul these become " Twelfth 
Night." 

The Classical vase-painting and